Thin as socks, would not last a couple of months outdoors, terrible for hiking, and yet we love them so much. That’s TOMS shoes for you. The classic TOMS shoe is as amazing as the story behind the shoe.
One thing we know for certain is that, except for those with existing food conditions, TOMS can be extremely comfortable. Whether you are lounging indoors or taking a quick walk to the store down the street, these shoes have an amazing feel.
However, their flat-footed and compressible design, non-existed arch support, and lack of treads on the rubber sole raise some valid questions. To find out how good TOMS shoes actually are for the average foot, we have to go back to the origin of the shoe and the evolution of man.
Alpargata TOMS plus the 1:1 Giving Model
You may already know that TOMS were inspired by the alpargata shoes traditionally won by women and girls in Argentina. That is the reason why Classic Toms are also called alpargatas.
Traditionally, the shoe is made from braided or woven plant fiber such as hemp or jute. It is an incredibly comfortable shoe that gave rise to the iconic rubber-soled TOMS variant with fabric or canvas uppers.
TOMS warm our hearts and feet for another reason. TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie started the company with 1:1 giving model which ensured that for every pair of TOMS purchased, another pair would be donated to poor children in Argentina.
The model was changed to $1 donated for every $3 earned until the company was taken over by its creditors in 2019. However, by then, TOMS had already donated more than 60 million shoes.
The shoe lives on, though, and our concern right now is how good TOMS are for our feet. What’s important is that the alpargata has been the traditional shoe for Argentinian women for centuries.
What Blake did was translate it from the soft trails of Argentina to the concrete jungle of the Americas. Please hold onto this bit of information, it will be important in a while.
What Podiatrists Say a Good Shoe Should Be
It is not often that you will hear podiatrists recommend TOMS shoes. In fact, many of them are positively averse to any shoes without proper arch support, impact cushioning, and a host of other features.
Podiatrists usually recommend shoes with a thick sole, wide toebox, and a molded footbed or one that is removable to make space for orthotic inserts. That means shoes such as the Hoka One for running or the ASICS Quickwalk for walking. Almost every podiatrist will talk to you about removable inserts, and for a good reason–about 25-30% of Americans have flat feet.
Flat feet is the term used to describe feet with a collapsed metatarsal arch. That is usually not a problem unless you stand or walk for long periods at a time, although they can cause foot pain and other problems as one advance in age. What is interesting, though, is that the shoes we wear as children play a big role in foot development. Restrictive or improperly fitted shoes caused incomplete development of foot ligaments and can lead to a collapsed arch.
This fact alone leads us to the main reason why TOMS shoes are medically good for your feet. Just like other minimalist shoes, they allow the foot a more natural stance than shoes shod normally.
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Why TOMS are Good for Your Feet
Back when man was still running in grasslands and forests covered in moccasins and other thin leather shoes, the evolutionary advantage of the foot arch allowed them to run better and faster than any other animal.
A properly formed foot arch provides 40% of the foot stiffness. It helps us to spring better and maintain balance in various kinds of environments.
What TOMS shoes do, as did the traditional alpargata, is that they allow the foot to maintain a more natural posture very similar to barefoot walking. A study found that this alone helps to strengthen the arch and stiffen the foot structure, which can work wonders to alleviate foot pain and other problems.
It has taken a long and winding journey to show why TOMS are not necessarily bad for your feet, and might actually be good for you. However, the trails of Argentina are not the hardtop surfaces of America.
Also Read: What Are Timberland Boots Good For?
Are TOMS Good For Walking on Hard Surfaces
Hard surfaces are potentially damaging to our feet, knees, hips, and even spine. You instantly feel the difference as you spring from a soft mountain trail to thud onto hard asphalt because the impact of your footfalls is suddenly transmitted through your feet to your skeleton. Concrete is even worse because it is up to 10 times harder than asphalt.
This means that ideally, what you want is a shoe with lots of shock absorption and layers of cushioning. Shoes for running or walking on concrete typically have thick rubber soles and cushioning built into their inserts for this reason.
However, it is easy to forget that our feet are incredibly designed for shock absorption even on hard surfaces such as are on our streets. For short periods of walking, wearing soft-soled or otherwise minimalist shoes like TOMS actually strengthens the foot support structure.
How to Wear TOMS Shoes
How you wear your TOMS also matters. For the classic TOMS with plain canvas uppers, you will want to have a pair of no-show socks on for extra comfort. This also prevents blisters with your TOMS.
More recent generations of the iconic shoe come with a more luxurious inner surface covered in faux fur, which means you can wear them barefoot with no problem. Remember that TOMS are good-weather shoes. They don’t like cold, water, or offroad trails. In fact, they prefer staying on familiar ground most of the time.
How to Style TOMS
A more relevant question might be how to wear TOMS like a fashionista. Granted, you may not be particularly interested in looking cool in your own home, but did you know that TOMS are actually amazing casual shoes you can even travel with?
Plus, the utilitarian look of classic TOMS is amazingly versatile. You can pair them with a pair of slim pants, dress them down with a skirt or dress, rock the beachy shorts-and-TOMS look, or stay with the classic TOMS-with-cuffed-jeans look. However you choose to wear them, TOMS remain super comfortable with an amazing of don’t care casual attitude.
It would be much better if you could wear your TOMS on grass lawns all day, but don’t be afraid to take them for a walk sometimes. The shoes suffer from the whole experience more than you do, but you can always buy another pair, can’t you?