Negative heel shoes are shoes designed to keep the heel slightly lower than the rest of the foot to promote proper alignment of the spine. Unlike traditional footwear, which elevates the heel and shifts a person’s center of balance forward as they walk, the shoes work with the foot’s natural motion, with the heel striking the ground first and bearing the most weight. The shoes are also designed to be wider at the front and narrower at the heel to support the foot comfortably and avoid crowding the toes.
Developed by Danish yoga instructor Ann Kalso in the 1950s, the shoes mimic the traditional Tadasana, or mountain pose, taking the stress off one’s back, hips and knees and putting it on the leg muscles where it belongs. Walking in negative heel shoes gives the whole body a workout, similar to walking up a slight incline. The calf muscles are stretched, extra calories are burned, and parts of the body not usually involved in the walking process are engaged and exercised. Even standing still places one’s body in proper yogic alignment, a bonus for people looking for simple ways to incorporate more exercise into their daily routines.
Walking in negative heel shoes can take a while to get accustomed to. Beyond the extra demands the shoes place on a person’s muscles, some people find the altered center of balance disconcerting. Still, the fitness benefits of the shoes are a powerful draw, and many people report feeling better immediately after switching to them, receiving instant relief from knee, back and hip pain. Proponents of negative heel shoes claim the benefits are well worth any initial adjustment.
Marketed under the name Earth Shoes, negative heel shoes were first introduced to the United States in the 1970s, and became all the rage in “hippie” culture. The Earth Shoe craze died down in the 1980s, but enjoyed a resurgence in popularity around the turn of the millennium as environmentally-minded consumers searched for options that were good for the planet and good for their health.
Though many companies have incorporated negative heels into their footwear now, Earth Shoes still employ the original Kalso® Negative Heel Technology™, building a 3.7 degree incline into every shoe, sandal and boot. The shoes come in a wide variety of styles, colors and materials, and the company adheres to a high level of environmental accountability, making them an especially attractive choice to many consumers.