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The Ruby Slippers

Two weeks ago, Toronto had the first big snowstorm of the season. I was in San Francisco, having treated myself to a holiday after the RES™ certification week in Ventura. I received notification that my flight was cancelled, but I headed to the airport anyway, thinking they’d get me on the next flight, after the runway was shovelled. Um…no. Not even close. I was three days getting home – two in San Fran and another in the O’Hare Hilton. But there’s worse fates to befall a person than being stuck in San Francisco in 70 degree weather, while the snow falls back home. Especially as I had that extra time to look for my elusive “Zero Drop” shoes. Yes, I did a bit of internet sleuthing and discovered a store that carried Altra shoes in Berkeley, which was accessible by Bart train (and bonus – a Trader Joe’s within spitting distance, where I could buy a ready made dinner to eat in the Best Western microwave, back in my beautiful airport hotel).

So off I went, first taking the shuttle back to the airport, then the Bart train to San Francisco, through town, across the bay to Berkeley, then a short walk to the shoe store. I had connected with them on their Facebook page to make sure they had a woman’s size 11 in stock. They assured me they did. I was stoked because you cannot get Altra shoes in Canada, not even online. I had done a ton of shoe research over the past few months and decided these were the best option for my particular needs. I had no room left in my suitcase, and was already wondering how to put everything I’d bought on my trip into two bags for carry on. I decided if I bought the shoes, that I’d be leaving my six month old Keens at the store. I bought the Keens in a moment of extreme need; my previous shoes literally falling apart on my feet, and the Keens were the best thing I could find at a moment’s notice, but they had narrow toes and weren’t the best solution for a bunion addled foot like mine.

So into the store I go and they bring me the box of Altras and I’m super excited and they open the box and….



they’re PINK! Hot pink!


Now, if you were to come to my house and open my closet, you would see two colours; black and blacker. The only things I buy that have any colour on them are socks, and I only wear socks when I absolutely have to. I even go barefoot in the winter in my Bog boots. So I was more than a little let down when I saw these hot pink shoes. But I tried them on anyway, thinking I could hold out for another six months until my next trip to the States. I walked around the store. I walked out of the store. I walked up and down the street. I walked back in the store. I pulled out my credit card and I bought them on the spot.

I put my Keens in the bin of shoes going to Africa (they have a lot of good use left, and I like the thought of someone in Africa wearing them!). When I got back to the hotel with my Trader Joe’s lasagna, I had a look at my shoes and I suddenly realized: I had Ruby Slippers! I would get home.

So this is all very entertaining but what does this have to do with alignment? Well, I’ve been on this search for zero drop shoes, which is the Altra way of saying the heels and toes are all on the same level. No heels. A positive heeled shoe is one where the heel is higher than the ball of the foot, even if it is just a little bit higher. And although it is called “positive” there’s nothing good about it. Even most trainers, sneakers or running shoes have a heel. We’re not just talking those fancy shoes with the red soles here.

So let’s take a look at what a one inch heel does to your geometry:

G20 Figure 10

The figure on the left shows a woman with a bouncy pony tail standing on flat, bare feet. The angle between the floor and a vertical line going through her alignment points as viewed from the side is 90 degrees. All is good.

The same girl in the middle, but now she has put on some heels. These aren’t very extreme by any measure, most people (even male people) consider a 1″ heel a pretty flat shoe. And although her pony tail can defy gravity, the rest of her cannot. For the moment, our girl is very rigid, and therefore, she has been thrown forward by her heels, and the angle has been reduced by 20 degrees. She has probably noticed that it is hard standing on this angle, and not very conducive to walking around and seeing where she’s going. So she’s going to make some adjustments.

Figure three on the right, our girl has now altered her geometry to get that angle back; she has bent her knees, most likely tucked her pelvis under, thrust her ribcage. Just look at how compressed and painful her lower back looks!

Now multiply that by two inches, or three inches. Not only do heels mess with our alignment causing pain and compression in our feet, knees, hips, lower and mid back, they actually change the resting length of our muscles and can do so permanently unless action is taken. If you are 6’2″ like me, you don’t really need heels so it’s easy for me to say ditch those heels ladies, and for goodness sake go buy yourself some of those sexy Earth Shoes. But if you are bound and determined to wear your Blahniks or Choos or Louboutins, you need to learn how to restore the length back to your calf muscles for starters. And here’s a good starter:

“Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief”

But if you are ready to overhaul your shoe closet, here is a list of shoe companies that Katy Bowman put together. You don’t need to make a drastic change in order to benefit – even decreasing the height of the heel you wear regularly will be a step in the right direction. Get it? A “step” in the right….

Nevermind. There’s no place like home…there’s no place like home…there’s no place like home


4 thoughts on “The Ruby Slippers

  • I love the San Francisco story! And I’m so glad the Bay Area pulled through for you. I’d love to hear how you like the shoes long-term. I have a couple friends who run in Altras but have never tried any on myself. Great post!!

  • Thanks Debbie. I have walked (not run) in my Altras now for a few weeks, snow willing. They are super so far – I will try to get another pair in NYC later this year (maybe a black pair).

  • oh, that ponytail bit is funny. seriously though, i wonder how ponytail alignment affects the hair follicles!?

    have these shoes held up nicely? do you find they’re still good for your feet (if your feet have changed over the years)?

  • I still use them, they are my first zero drop shoe and as such I chose a type of shoe with a fair bit of padding. Now I use them for long walks on concrete or in colder weather that would make wearing a less padded shoe uncomfortable.

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