The Resource Doula

Why Minimal Footwear? with Anya of Anya’s Reviews

June 15, 2022 Natalie Headdings Episode 13
The Resource Doula
Why Minimal Footwear? with Anya of Anya’s Reviews
Show Notes Transcript

Show Notes

Anya is a barefoot shoe expert and entrepreneur. After years of chronic foot pain, she discovered natural footwear and how it impacts the body from the ground up. Today she works to help people to find real solutions to their foot pain through better shoes and better habits. You can find barefoot shoe options for the whole family, for every occasion and budget at AnyasReviews.com

This episode is chalk full of good information! Have a listen!

Resources Anya Mentioned in this Episode

Study Natalie mentioned about heels and incontinence

Find Anya online here

Come say hey on social media:

Instagram: @trainernatalieh

Facebook: @trainernatalieh

Twitter: @trainernatalieh

Sign up for my newsletter here: https://sendfox.com/trainernatalie

Natalie:

On today's episode, I chat with Anya about footwear, common foot problems and how and why you should go barefoot more often. If you find yourself cringing at that idea, keep a list. Anya is a wealth of information and resources for people who want to improve their foot health. I found her a few years ago and have sent clients to her website ever since. And so thankful she took the time to talk with me and I really hope you enjoy our Congress. I'm Natalie. And you're listening to the resource, do a podcast, a place where we provide information to help you make informed healthcare decisions for yourself and your family. Hello and welcome. I'm Natalie. And I'm really excited to have Anya on the podcast today. You may have heard of her as the barefoot shoe queen on Instagram. Anya is a barefoot shoe expert and entrepreneur. After years of chronic foot pain, she discovered natural footwear and how it impacts the body from the ground up today, she works to help people find real solutions to their foot pain, through better shoes and better habits. You can find barefoot shoe options for the whole family for every occasion and budget at Anya's reviews.com. So welcome on yet. Thanks so much for chatting with me and taking the time to have this conversation.

Anya:

Yeah, no problem, Natalie. I'm excited to have.

Natalie:

Well, I was going to say, I don't remember exactly when I found your, your site, but I came across it a couple of years ago, I think now. And I've pretty much done every single client I have your way since. And so I just, yeah, I really appreciate what you do and I'm, I'm thankful for you.

Anya:

Oh, well, thanks. I appreciate you sending your clients to me too. All of that helps.

Natalie:

Absolutely. So let's just dive right in. Can you talk about what aspect of your career you're most passionate about?

Anya:

Well, it's hard to narrow it down because there's a lot of things that excite me. Um, but I think that ultimately I am most passionate about how easy it is for people to access. Uh, some benefits with their feet, that it can be so accessible and even just little things like stretching your toes at night can have a really big impact on how you feel. So I get really, I geek out about it a lot just because it's something that so many people don't think about, but it's just there for all of us and it doesn't cost anything. You don't have to have any special equipment or any special expertise and it can have a real impact in your quality of life. So that's probably what I'm most passionate about. That's amazing.

Natalie:

I love that. And I really appreciate that it's free and anybody can do it. It's really, I find that it's accessible to work with people's feet, no matter their age or their mobility level, too. Like people can work on their feet while they're in a chair or even a wheelchair as well. So, yeah,

Anya:

that's awesome. And that's the amazing thing about it is that no matter what activities you do or what your abilities are, or your disabilities are that there are things that can make you more comfortable. You know, you don't have to be only running marathons in order to care about your feet. So I also love that

Natalie:

amazing. So, okay. Let's just get this right, right out of the gate. What's the most common Nick that you think people believe about minimal footwear or barefoot shoes, and what's your response to this

Anya:

myth? So I think there's two that are really common that I hear a lot. One is that barefoot shoes equals toe shoes. So, and that's kind of more of a superficial myth that people just don't realize that healthy footwear encompasses a much broader style range. And even. Even broader in that they don't have to be so thin that they can be a little bit thicker and still be considered natural. So that's one of my favorite myths to best because a lot of people who have that idea, all it takes is just a quick glance on my website. And then their minds are blown. That there's really so many options. Um, the second myth is a little bit more layered and that's that feet need to be supported. Um, so I am not going to come in and say, everybody needs to throw their shoes away and never look back. Um, because I recognize that there's a lot of nuance. Everybody's bodies are different, their histories are different. We're all coming to the table with different things. So, uh, the myth is not that nobody needs support. It's just that we shouldn't have that be our default, you know, feet naturally, uh, are designed to solve. Our bodies there to support our weight, to be able to carry us through life, without support, um, things can happen where intervention might be needed. That requires like temporary art support or different things. But that our default shouldn't be that all feet need to be supported. So if you have no other, uh, other conditions and no prior injuries, and you're just going about your life, why are we just assuming that you need to put an, a support under there? It just doesn't make sense. Um, so that's the, those are the two most common things that people say when they come across, my page are toe shoes. Aren't those, aren't those barefoot shoes. And then also don't you need our support.

Natalie:

And I hear that a lot from people like I have really high arches, so obviously I need to put something underneath. Or I've heard, I need good walking shoes, you know, good quotations. And it seems to be, yeah, the default, but we don't do that with any other part of our body. We don't put a brace on our knee to prevent injury.

Anya:

Right, right. Our same or our hands, you know, like, can you think about going through your life with, with a brace on your hands and trying to do your normal things? Um, and that's what we do to our feet. Yeah.

Natalie:

Yeah. So with all of the brands that there are, and I was fairly new to the barefoot game or a minimal footwear game several years ago, I think it's been about five for me now. Um, and I kind of thought that vivo barefoot was like the end all be all the only brand that did minimal footwear. And then I came across your page and I was like, oh wow, there's quite a few more brands. So where does one start with even deciding what type of shoe is best for their foot? And. Should they just try a bunch of different kinds. They're not often the stores. And so we do have to order them online, which is, makes things a little bit more challenging. So where do you start with

Anya:

that? Yeah, so I always say education first. Um, I know that there's a temptation to want to just go out and buy something, but, uh, I think it's always a good idea to kind of learn and explore a little bit and, you know, do some exercises at home. Try to walk barefoot a little bit, think about where you're currently at, because that's gonna make a big difference in what type of shoe you want to get. So if, if like I started out in heavily supported, supportive footwear for a really long time, so I couldn't just jump into a super minimal option right away. So for me, a transition was more important having a shoe that was flat still and had a toe space, but that had some thickness between me and. For comfort because I was in pain if I was walking in really thin shoes or barefoot. So that was how I started. But somebody who has already really comfortable walking around barefoot and already is kind of into choose like Toms. And, um, let's put, what are some others that are kind of minimal? Um, like the little Plimsouls really thin sneakers. If you're kind of already into shoes that are more minimal and that aren't super supportive, then you might be ready to just add a vivo barefoot or a wildling, which are really thin options. And then that's a great path for you. Um, so that's where I recommend starting first is just getting to know a little bit about the whole idea behind them and where you're at and recognizing that there isn't one correct shoe for everybody. It's more of a journey and it'll probably take some time. Um, a lot of people have success. Adding one single pair and then kind of slowly increasing their time with it. So if you don't, I want to have to worry about buying transition shoes every few months, which is daunting. I understand that. Um, if you get your ideal shoe, that's more minimal, but just recognize that maybe you're not going to be comfortable in it all day at first, and that's okay. You can wear it for 30 minutes at a time, or even 15 minutes at a time and slowly increase I'm walking in them. Um, but as far as the, the nuts and bolts, like you mentioned, unfortunately, there aren't a lot of options in stores. So that's kind of the crux of my website is because, um, I, it, it is daunting. I've been through it all myself, and done a whole lot of ordering and returning and that kind of thing. Um, so my website is designed to kind of help you narrow down. To some of those things so that you can figure out what, what features you need, whether it's sole thickness or toe box shape, or different styles of shoes for different things that you need in your life that can help you kind of narrow it down. So I have a, an FAQ and one of the FAQ's is how to pick your first pair of barefoot shoes. And it kind of walks you through some of the things to think about and some of the, um, articles to get you started. And, and then even some tips, like I recommend enrolling in PayPal's return shipping program, so that if you need to return and it's not free, then PayPal will actually reimburse your return shipping up to, I think about 12 times a year up to 30 days. So that even covers yeah. It even covers international return. So there's some tips like that, just to kind of help things be a little bit more accessible, feel a little more accessible. Um, I also started a barefoot shoe retail shop myself, um, because there are so many amazing brands in Europe that feel daunting to order from just because of transit time and if you have to return them and those types of things. So we actually import, um, European shoes here and have free shipping and free returns within the contiguous us just as another way to remove some of those barriers. So the, the short answer is there is no short answer you might have to just order and maybe return, you know, like that's just a reality is shoes are hard to get right the first time, but you can. In a stepwise approach and not feel like, oh my gosh, I have to throw everything away and I have to replace everything immediately. Just kind of take it one step at a time and you'll get, you'll figure it out.

Natalie:

And oftentimes too, if we do take like a throw everything out approach, I feel like there can be issues. Like, is there any harm in doing that? Like transitioning too quickly? What do you recommend for like, is there a timeframe for people who have had that like super duper thick arch support or extra cushion shoes?

Anya:

Yeah. So I always recommend that if people are coming with preexisting issues that they consult with a professional and I do have some resources again, in that FAQ, I mentioned that's on the homepage of my website, where I list out some virtual people who do virtual consultations that you podiatrists and other movement specialists that might be able to just guide you a little bit into. You know, when you might need some arch support or when you should go see a podiatrist and things like that, just because I'm not a medical expert. I can't tell you exactly how this will go for you. But generally that our tissues are especially our soft tissues. They take months to adapt. So everybody should expect that at least a six, six months to a year is just going to be kind of standard for our bodies to adapt. Um, so having that in mind will help you realize that if you do feel a little bit of discomfort, then that's normal, your body's changing, but you don't want to push it into a painful region. So you can actually get injured and people have, if you are a runner and you're running in one type of shoe and you suddenly changed to a minimum. You might get a stress fracture or, you know, there are, uh, tendonitis, Achilles tendonitis is when that happens. So it's not a miracle cure, it's a long-term solution and that's going to require a slow adaptation. And, um, that's why I recommend doing the small periods of time and kind of increasing it so that you can, your body can slowly get used to it because you're the force has changed. Right. You're S you're adding loads to new places that haven't gotten loaded so heavily before. So that's also why walk before you run is great. And, and then thinking about things like if you should start with a little bit more cushion or if you're okay in a really thin sole

Natalie:

awesome, super good tips. And just to know, not all podiatrists are created equal, so don't just run off to a podiatrist and ask. You know, what, what shoes are best? Because I've heard a lot of stories from clients of, they said I needed, you know, arch support. They said I needed custom orthotics and I have to wear them for the rest of my life.

Anya:

So, yeah, and that, that is a really tricky thing for a lot of people. I've been, I was in that situation where I went to a podiatrist and I got told very directly do not wear flexible shoes. If I can bend them, don't wear them and was sent down this path. And then you see other podiatrists or you read my website and it's like the complete opposite. And that can be really overwhelming. So I totally feel for people who are in those situations, um, it's, it's difficult to know. But if you think about it logically, and also from your own experience, like if you try some things, you know, you try some exercises, you try just experiencing it. Oftentimes the evidence starts to speak for itself really quickly and people start seeing results and then they're they're okay. You know, then they can say, okay, I'm not just blindly following someone's directions. I'm actually getting feedback from my own body. That's telling me that this has beneficial. And then it kind of gives you more confidence to keep going. That at least that's how it was for me is I was just bombarded with all this information. You know, when you're in pain, it's, you're, you're vulnerable and you're, you know, people want to sell things to you. People want to tell you what to do. Um, but having that evidence start coming back to me that, okay, I'm seeing positive changes. I'm I'm my feet is my feet are adapting to the new stresses and they're getting stronger. And that gave me confidence that I was on the right path. And now. You know, now I know very clearly, but when you're starting out, it can be really overwhelming.

Natalie:

Yeah, absolutely. Especially if you've had the years and years of orthotics and, um, have been told that for, you know, your entire career or athletic career, I've had, I've had clients like that as well. And yeah, I just love what you said about that because it echoes everything that every guest I've had on has said about listening to your body. You're the expert on your own body and you have to trust it. You have to learn to figure out what it's telling you and move forward with that information. So thank you for just going along with the theme of everybody else. Um, okay. So talk about a little bit, um, about your own art restoration project. I know you posted a photo of like the prior, the before photo, and then currently. Um, how did that come about? And you literally raised your arches up.

Anya:

I know it's, it's funny because whenever I share those photos, inevitably, people are like, oh, that's fake. You know, it can't be real. It's not possible, but I'm like, well, I don't know what to tell you. It happened to me. So, and I, and I know it's happened to a lot of other people too, where you, it's not so much, it's partly strength for sure. That's definitely a component of it, but it's, it's mainly conditioning so that your feet starts being used. You know, like the parts are there. It's just that many of us aren't using them. So the feet are just kind of passive. They're just not really participating when, when we're moving. So waking the feet up is a phrase that a lot of people use because that's kind of what it feels like. And that's how it was for me is that my, my feet were in pain for a really long time. I got used to just like, kind of like. Just letting them sit there and not doing anything with them. And then after waking them up and moving my toes around it and experiencing my arch, raising and lowering, which you can actually do yourself through contracting the muscles in your feet and kind of finding out what that felt like. Also coupled with more whole body stuff. I did Pilates for awhile, uh, trying to get spinal good spinal articulation so that all of my parts are moving well. My hips were moving well. I started squatting a lot more and just over time, it kind of all worked together to. Uh, actually having an arch instead of being totally flat-footed it, wasn't my purpose. Like I didn't go out saying I'm going to raise my arch. It was a by-product of doing all the things that I knew that I needed for a healthier, more functional body. And that's kind of what I want to reiterate is that the way your feet look are not indicative of how they function and they're not indicative of how you're going to feel. So there are people who have Bunyan's or who have flat feet or high arches, and people might say, oh, there's something wrong with your foot. But if their foot's working well for them, then they're going to feel good. So you don't need to be so worried about if you have flat feet and you have no other problems, you don't need to think, oh, I gotta fix that. Um, it's always function over. And that's one of the, that's another myth about the barefoot shoes is if you have flat feet, you need to wear our support. Or if you have high arches, you need to wear arch support. When really there's a, a range of height of arches, that's all normal. We just want them to be working. We want to be able to have the windlass mechanism is, is, uh, something that you hear a lot where when you step over the big toe, the arch raises, we want to have that functioning and we want to have, you know, some, we want to have good strengthen enough mobility and stability so that we can walk well and stand well and run and do the things, but how your feet look is ultimately not, not the end all be all.

Natalie:

That's really important feedback to have, I think. And, um, when you talk about Burundians, can you define Burundians? Can you talk about them a little bit more in detail? How are they. And how are they unmade if possible and when would someone maybe consider surgery?

Anya:

Sure. Yeah. Yeah. So I can tell you what I've learned from other experts, but again, I just want to reiterate that I, myself am not a podiatrist is I don't have medical background in this, but, um, there are some really great resources out there from correct toes and gate happens and Petra Fisher, she's a movement specialist to help understand Binance. So what I've learned from experts like them is that Burundians are happened because of an inherent instability in the foot. So you've got some weakness and the first Ray, which is that first metatarsal, it starts to kind of shift out that joint where the, the toe comes off of, they call it the MTP. It starts to shift out and then the toe angles. So a lot of people think it's just the big toe angling in, but it's actually the whole first Ray is going out to. So you've got that joint is kind of shifting away from the others and then the big toe angles in, and that can be heavily exacerbated by footwear that's pointy, which is one of the reasons why it's believed that women have more opinions come more commonly than men is because women's fashion. Footwear tends to be a lot narrower in the toolbox. And so it's commonly associated that that's, those two things are related, which I definitely believe that they are related. It makes a lot of sense, but it's deeper than that. It's that the muscles, the S the stability and the foot is compromised, which allows that joint to move out and be unstable. So correcting it is, is a, do you need to have a dual approach? Free the toes. So that, that big toe isn't angled in anymore, or the pinky toe. It can happen on both sides so that you actually have the space and then you also need to mobilize the foot and strengthen it and stabilize it. So working the tissues in between the joints, I mean, sorry, in between the bones will soften things up, loosen things up so that the bones can kind of shift and maybe they need to spread back together. If that joint is kind of shit, you know, floating out there, it can help it so that it can realign, but then also working on the strength so that it now can hold together. You know, it's not going to be wobbling all over the place when you're moving. So it's important to recognize that it's, the shoes are a really important factor, but that it, it really requires more than shoes. We need to be able to use our feet. Um, in order to prevent things like that, some people want to just change their shoes. And then they're saying, oh, well I wear foot shape shoes, but I'm still getting opinion. And that's when you want to look at what's happening, what else is happening? Are my feet super tense? And the tissues are all tight and they need to be loosened up. Do I need to strengthen all that sort of thing?

Natalie:

Okay. So getting a foot massage is really beneficial for more things than relaxation.

Anya:

Yeah. Yeah. So I like to, if you put your foot down and you can do it on your hand too, if you like feel in between the bones and just kind of like massage it, like almost like you're like finding where if you have ribs and you're trying to find where to cut in between the ribs, like finding that meaty spot and just like. Rubbing it and kind of lengthening it, doing that on your feet. It can be pretty, pretty painful, especially if you need it, it's going to be pretty intense, but that can feel once it, once you're done it can feel amazing because your feet feel so much more mobile and free. Oh

Natalie:

yeah. And you can feel them more. I can the floor. That's what I've noticed with my own experience.

Anya:

Yeah. For sure. You kind of wake them up and then it's like, they're like, Hey, I'm here now.

Natalie:

So that's mobilization. Are there a couple simple exercises for strengthening that you recommend that you can explain via word?

Anya:

So toe yoga or I call it Toga is a really great one and I can feel hard at first because if you can't, you know, if you haven't used your toes very much, then you might not be able to do this very well at first. But if Toyota is basically. Taking your toes and moving them individually. So trying to pick up just your big toe by itself, and then trying to pick up your other toes by themselves, and then see if you can do piano keys where you play or where you put down one toe at a time and try to individualize each one. Or you can even just put your foot down and try to spread them out and then lift them up while they're spread. There's so much you can do. There's no rules. It's really just trying to find, uh, it's almost like a nervous system connection, trying to figure out how to move that toe by itself and then keep doing. That's a really great one to start with. Um, another foot exercise that I think is really foundational and also really accessible is just single leg balance. So balancing on your feet is a really great foot exercise. And if you kind of play it, play with different textures, um, try and balance on things that are a little trickier or bumpier. That's really great. Um, those are two totally equipment free, easy things that work your feet and in a pretty big way. So if you do that, if you intentionally do that for like, let's say a minute on each side, the toe yoga you'll feel it, you know, you you'll feet might even be tired afterwards and that's kind of the goal is we want to use them enough that they're now adapting and getting stronger.

Natalie:

Yeah. Yeah. And to add in like, from the. Physiologists perspective. It's that single leg balance. It not only works your feet, but it works you or your muscles around your knees. It works your hip muscles and those hip muscles really are what control your foot. Like it's all connected. It goes up the chain. So

Anya:

it's good. Yes, absolutely. Yeah. And it helps integrate it for when you move, because you want your feet, you don't want your feet to just be sitting there pretty and healthy. Like they have to be able to move with you and function through the gait cycle. And so the single leg balance is a great way to kind of incorporate it because when we walk, we spend most of the time on one foot. And when you run, it's a hundred percent of the time on one leg. So if you can't balance on one foot, how what's happening when you're walking and when you're running, you know, and that's where it ties in really well with the pelvis is because a lot of times there's some suffering there. If your feet can't see. Your S your body, then it's going to be straining on the hip. It's going to be pulling on the pelvis. And so it is all connected, but those two things, the single leg balance and the toe yoga, really great entry points into working on the foot strength.

Natalie:

Perfect. So I want to talk a little bit more about the pelvis and how it's connected. I know you did a video a little bit ago about how pelvic floor health is directly connected to feet. Something that I talk to my clients about all the time, so we can go into more of that. Um, you can take it any way you want,

Anya:

so it can be really intuitive. If you know, you do some experimenting with your body. I found that I actually learned this from Katie Bowman, who is a really great movement, natural movement expert. If you stand up and you shift your weight to your opposite, Your left leg. And then you put your hand on your right thigh and you just twist it in and then twist it out. You'll get, you're going to be rotating at the hip, but you're going to see that your arch, when you're, when you roll your, when you twist your thigh inward, your arch is gonna flatten. And when you twist your thigh out, then your arch is going to raise up. And so if you think about, if your muscles of your hip can't hold your thigh straight, then your arch is going to fall. So you can't have, you're going to have flat feet. If you don't have lateral hip muscles and those types of things, it's kind of eye-opening and really fun to kind of play with in your own body and see that connection there also squatting is. A really fun way to start. You know, you sit in a squat and you can feel it in your pelvic floor, but you're also feeling in your feet to let your feet and your pelvic floor kind of both like bookends to the whole posterior chain. And they're keeping you stable. Um, another really fun exercise that Katie Bowman, um, I learned from Katie Bowman is if you sit on like, say a little pillow with your knees up and your feet in front of you and you use your feet to move your, you can actually use your feet to move your pelvis. So if you plant your feet into the ground and you're pushing your feet and you're almost like pushing your feet away from you and an isometric, and then you tilt your pelvis back by pushing your feet away, and then you can pull your feet towards you. You know, your, your arches are activated, your toes are pressing into the ground and you pull your feet towards you and then lift your pelvis up towards your feet. And I love that because it's a really great way to kind of activate the whole chain and you can feel it through, you can literally feel it through your feet all the way up into your pelvis. So just intuitively that's how I've experienced it is that when my feet are really active, I literally feel it all the way up through, into my pelvis. And you feel that stability all the way up in between your legs and all the way up, but I'm sure you, you know, you're more of an expert on that than I am.

Natalie:

I haven't tried yet with the sitting on the cushion and pulling and pushing. So. I don't know. I don't know why I, I consider Katy Bowman, my, my spirit animal. So

Anya:

she's awesome. Her book, diastasis recti. That's where I learned that one. And so she uses it as a really low, like really entry-level, um, core exercise for, for abdominal separation. And I, and I, I use it myself just, it's like, almost like a connecting the dots. You start to feel that connection and that's fun.

Natalie:

I bet everybody listening is going to do it as they're listening. I hope so. At least. I want to talk about. And corns and blisters because that's a question I personally have. And a lot of other people have asked me too, like, what do you do with that? And like, I guess, how do you, how do you improve your feet? So that, that doesn't happen because that's a sign that something is wrong, right?

Anya:

Yeah. So better footwear is really a first step in that. Um, I used to get corns on my outside of my foot on that pinky toe joint because my shoes were too narrow. So, you know, it was rubbing and then where there's pressure, you, you know, that's where your body sends energy. So then you start to develop a callus because there's constant pressure there. And luckily with corns, it's fairly easy to get to. To get rid of you, shave them down with a pumice stone and that can help with the pain of a corn, but I would keep getting 'em until it wasn't till it really, until I switched to barefoot shoes where I finally had enough space for all my toes and all my feet. And then that went away, some people will get a corn right in the center of their, the ball of their foot. And that can also be because of too tight shoes because they're too tight on the sides. So then it's pushing the ball of their foot down. It's kind of almost like curling, like rounding their foot so that the toes are, are on the outsides are lifting up and then the center ball of the foot is being pushed down. Okay. Kind of like a bowl one day. Yeah. So one thing you can do for that is, um, balancing on a beam or like walking on bumpy things to kind of help get that foot. So it's not no longer shaped like a ball can kind of help flatten it out so that the weight's more distributed evenly on the ball. Those are callouses that can be improved by better footwear. And also just by, you know, better strength and coordination of the feet. Some are because of the way you walk. So like if you constantly land, um, or if you're rolling over your big toe and you're not stepping through it. So like, it's kind of hard to explain without a visual, but let's say your big toe is in and your crossing over it through the center. I don't know. I don't know if this is going to translate, translate audio, so you're,

Natalie:

then you're going to, it turned out essentially, or your toe is turned out to the side. And so as you're walking the forces. Kind of more medial, more on the inside of your foot rather than having your foot be completely straight and rolling off of that big toe. Is that

Anya:

exactly? Yes. Thank you. Okay. Yes. So then your, they call that a pinch callus. You can get a callus on that outside edge of the big toe, because that's where you're rolling over. So that's a sign that that's more of a gait issue that you want to have your feet pointing forward more, or at least have your big toe roll straight over it instead of kind of getting around it, which a lot of people, if you have poor, big toe mobility, you might be kind of wanting to get around that big toe instead of walking through it and having it bend. Yes. Um, so there's a lot there with calluses. Um, it's kind of one of those things where if you improve everything, you just kind of remove the poor shoes you work on better. Um, strength and all of those types of things, then a lot of it will just kind of naturally, um, improve. If you have a really persistent issue, then you might want to speak to a specialist who might like a gate specialists, like gate happens is a really great one who does virtual consultations. They can really kind of get into the nitty gritty of what you might be doing. That's exacerbating some of those things. Um, same with blisters. Blisters can also be somewhat genetic if, if your skin is just a little bit more prone to it, but also if you're exposing your feet to air and to the environment, you know, you're, you're slowly walking barefoot more than that can also help the skin just become a little bit tougher so that you're not getting them. But if you're wearing poor shoes that are rubbing, then you know, there's not, there's only so much you can do to prevent blisters. Right. So better footwear is pretty key.

Natalie:

Okay. I sense a theme here. Um, I think it's really cool that your body really shows you, like, if you have a callus on the outside of your big toe, it's probably, or might be because you're walking in a way that's not optimal. And so there's some clues there that you can look for.

Anya:

Yeah. And this just made me think of another misconception that I sometimes hear is that if you walk barefoot a lot, then you're going to have this nasty callused feet. And the interesting thing is that when you're really using your whole foot and exposing the entire sole of your foot to different textures and surfaces, then it's, you don't get, um, uneven calluses. You don't get like a really thick one here. It's really the entire bottom of your foot becomes uniformly. And, but it's still sensitive. You know, you still have, your nerves are working, you still have good blood flow and oxygen nation. And, but the entire bottom of your foot is tougher and you're able to be more comfortable on surfaces. And sometimes people look at my feet and they're like, oh, you don't walk barefoot your feet. Aren't disgusting. And I'm like, well, actually I walk barefoot all the time outside. Like almost for the entire summer. I'm always barefoot hiking and everything, but it just, it results in a healthier foot than people expect that it actually can be a uniform callous. And that's kind of the goal. So the uneven calluses is when something is getting extra pressure in certain areas.

Natalie:

Okay. Not in uniform conditioning, so to speak. Right. Okay. So that's another question. My friend, Kayla and I, she was on the podcast a few weeks ago. Um, she and I were talking about footwear because we live in Alaska and it gets very, very, very cold in the winter. And a lot of the minimal footwear that we have is thin. Right. And so the, the hardest, like struggle I've had is finding shoes that are warm enough that keep my toes warm, that are warm enough on the bottom. So what would you say to those of us who live up here in the north and, um, maybe people who just tend to have colder feet and in general?

Anya:

Sure. Yeah. Um, like Raynaud's is one that I hear sometimes people looking for shoes, so I not as cold as Alaska, but I live in Iowa. Okay. And, um, so it gets really cold and I'm out walking and it's minus 20. Minus 30. And so this has been a subject for me that was kind of important. Cause my first year living my first winter living here, I was miserable. I had a pair of FIBA barefoot, um, Gobi boots. I could be out for like 10 minutes and then I was like, my toes were like just dead. Yeah. So, um, I put a lot of research into this and I actually have an article that's dedicated completely to the all-time warmest. That includes other options, like, um, liner. And overshoot options in souls that help my personal favorite. And I have nothing comes even close is Steger mukluks. They are zero drop and they come in four width options. So there's a, women's regular, a women's wide men's and a men's wide. And the shoe is literally the same. So the gendering doesn't matter if they're just different widths. Okay. So if you have extra, extra white feet, then you can go with a men's wide. I have a women's wide and it's got these really thick wall interior, and it's flexible enough that you can actually step on a rock and feel it, but they are the only boots that keep my feet warm when it's minus 25 outside. And I mean, I mean like, like actually like not like I'm out for 30 minutes and then I go into my total. Like I could be out for multiple hours and my breast, my body's freezing and my feet feel good. So they're, they're far and away the best I've ever found for warmth that are still minimalist. They do come, they do have a, uh, orthotic insole option. So you just choose the felted wall and it's just totally flat and flexible and all that.

Natalie:

Awesome. Awesome. Um, do you wear them barefoot or do you put socks on the inside?

Anya:

If it's cold, really cold, then I wear socks. Okay. So I personally prefer to wear my shoes barefoot as much as I can. Um, socks cover the nerves. So even inside your shoes, like you'll feel like a little better grip and you know, just a little bit more connected. When you're barefoot, but there are plenty of reasons why people like to wear socks. And so if you want to then please do. Um, and I do in the winter, I have some wall toe socks and legwarmers and things that I add in to keep me warm.

Natalie:

I need to try the legwarmers. I saw that you were talking about those. That's a great idea to still stay warm and kind of fill the boots. I have those, are they the Asgard rain boots.

Anya:

Um, and then, yeah, so

Natalie:

I think I need to try that to keep them secure, but still beat their fit on the inside.

Anya:

Yeah. I love like warmers for that. I have really low arches and kind of skinny ankles. So some of those boots, especially the pull on boots that don't have laces. They tend to be loose on me in that area. So the Lang warmers are really nice to fill that in so that I'm not doing funny things like ripping the boot while I'm trying to walk. Right.

Natalie:

That doesn't fully defeat the purpose, but non-optimal strategies with your feet, right?

Anya:

Yes. Yes. We want them relaxed.

Natalie:

So what about going barefoot in your shoes? And then having stinky feet, is that a condition of like just a person, person to person or

Anya:

something else? It, it seems like there's just some variability from person to person, but also there is a connection between blood flow to your feet and the development of bacteria and fungus on your feet. So if your toe boxes are sufficiently wide, then theoretically you should have less of a problem with stinky feet being barefoot. But of course it happens. You know, my kid's shoes get stinky. They, they won't wear socks. They don't like socks. Um, I just approached them to me. I just wash them in the washing machine. Like I'll stick, put a drop of tea, tree oil in each shoe and wash them on gentle and then stick them over the air vent to dry so that they don't grow bacteria while they're drying, you know, if they dry too slowly. Right. And that seems to work pretty well for, for us. But if I have a shoe pair of shoes that I really love that are maybe a little bit more fancy or like a special, and I don't ever want to wash them. And I'm worried about that. I just wear socks with them,

Natalie:

you know? Okay. Yeah, it makes sense.

Anya:

But like sneakers and stuff, you can totally wash them. I need to try that.

Natalie:

I've tried to soak them in my tub and do all of that, but I think the Washington machine would do better.

Anya:

Yeah. I've even washed leather shoes, which don't, I mean, like do this at your own discretion because every, you know, washer is different. And, but, um, I was desperate because I got them really, really dirty on a muddy hike and I was trying to wash them by hand, just wasn't working. So I just stuck them in the washing machine and they came out fine. That's amazing.

Natalie:

Okay. I'm going to go wash my shoes after we're done. Um, okay. You mentioned your kids shoes and I know a lot of my listeners are moms of young kids and there's a lot of information out there from physical therapists and people talking about developing babies and growing and walking. What do you say to parents who are interested in starting their kids out with minimal footwear?

Anya:

Yeah. So baby footwear is usually already. And, you know, they're very flexible and thin and there's just like little foot protectors. They're not, you know, like we, we know intuitively that we shouldn't interfere with them learning to walk. You know, they need to be able to feel the ground. And then when kids get to be school-aged, it's like suddenly this doesn't apply to them anymore. And the shoes are really stiff and have heels and our support. And so walking through that, you know, walking yourself through that mentally makes it intuitively logical to keep your kids in minimalist footwear, you know, unless there's some pre-existing musculoskeletal condition, there's just not really any good reason why every kid should be put in supportive footwear, as soon as they start going to school. Um, there are a lot of options and they range in price. And I know that affordability is for me when I had my kids who started needing shoes. That was a big thing for me. So I put a lot of effort into creating resources for parents, that feature shoes for different occasions and also affordable options so that it can be accessible. But definitely having kids who don't have foot problems, keeping them in shoes that let their feet stay, spread out, let their feet move so that they can use their foot muscles so that they're already sort of adapted to using their feet while they run. And they walk. That's just going to prevent so many issues down the road. So I, I feel strongly that if we can just keep our kids in shoes like that, then for one thing, it's not going to be a challenge for them. They're not going to have to adapt to it. Like. A lot of adults do because they've been in supportive shoes and they have to kind of go backwards to unsupportive shoes. They've already been like that their whole lives. And so then they already have the foot strength. They, your toes are spread out. You know, it's just a really wonderful way to prevent problems before they start. And for most kids, it they're totally comfortable. You know, they don't know anything different. There's no problem. They, kids can pound down the pavement barefoot and they're fine. Um, so worrying, um, unnecessary and as a parent, I totally, you know, I was worried about my kid's feet, but you don't need to introduce something that they don't need. You know, if they're not having problems, then just let their feet be free. You know, they're, they're doing fine.

Natalie:

That speaks to my heart. You're speaking my language. I would be really interested to know, like at longitudinal study of kids who grow up wearing minimal footwear and specifically women who give birth and seeing that there's fewer pelvic floor issues and fewer birthing issues from those kids who grew up wearing minimal footwear.

Anya:

Yeah. That is really interesting. There are some studies on. Being barefoot and there's more and more research coming out about minimal footwear, but a launch to no study like that. That would be pretty awesome, but that'd be cool.

Natalie:

I just, yeah, it would so many fewer clenched pelvic floors and, you know, fewer tucked under pelvises. I think there was a study and I, I can't quote it right now, but I'll find it for the show notes. It was high heels and incontinence levels. Have you seen that one?

Anya:

I haven't, but it makes sense. Yeah. Yeah.

Natalie:

It was correlated basically is what they found that, you know, if you're lifting your heels and your calves are tight, your pelvis is tucked under the back of your pelvic floor is tight, the front lacks tension and balance. And so there's higher instances of urinary incontinence specifically with high heel wearing. I mean, it makes so much sense, but it just blows my mind that that's right. Yeah. This is correct. That these issues

Anya:

from your feet. Yeah. Right now, it's, it's interesting how, there's not a lot of big research, but people like you and you know, the MuTu system and Laura Nahan and Katie Beau, when people are taking information that we already know have and have established as fact, and then just kind of piecing it together, like actually connecting the dots to say, oh, well then it makes sense that high heels would affect the pelvic floor. And it's it's I love it because it's intuitive, but it's also kind of exciting because there's so much. Exploration. There's still so much to do. And, um, I'm just excited to see what the next decade, what, what comes out of it in terms of research and, you know, new modalities and therapies and that sort of thing. Yeah. Yeah. And normalizing

Natalie:

minimal footwear and how it looks. I think some of your content that I just, I adore is the fashion, but make it barefoot and showing that like minimal footwear candy, cute and stylish and, and look good. I think a lot of people worry that they're going to have to either wear toe shoes or look like clown shoes. I've heard that one before. Um,

Anya:

yeah. It is surprising how deep the cultural conditioning of shoes goes. Yes. And I, and I get it because. To be perfectly honest with you. I don't love walking around in my toe shoes. I feel like I'm a little worried to be honest with you, that people are going to be like, oh, those are ugly. And for me to say, you know, and I'm really confident in my footwear choices and I don't normally worry, but there's still a part of me that like, we want to be accepted and we worry about what other people think. Like that's just never going to go away. So normalizing it, I think is really powerful. And for the most part, people don't notice, like we worry, but other people don't question that maybe the toe shoes people might yeah. Poke a little fun. But the wide toe box is I don't have people telling me that they're ugly. You know, like my friends and family don't bat an eye because at first they don't even recognize that they're different. Right. I think. And that's the fun part of the options nowadays is that they, they really blend in, you know, they don't look odd.

Natalie:

Yeah. Yeah. I think we hyper-focused on it when we're dealing with something like, okay, my feet hurt. I'm transitioning to a minimal footwear. I'm obsessing over how they look. Do they look too victim? Do they make my feet look fat? Right. Like all of those things, but yeah, you're right. Nobody, really, everybody else is already self concerned about themselves and how they look. They're not going to pay attention to, to what's on your feet.

Anya:

Yeah. And I know that some people have experienced some negative feedback, you know, some criticism from other people and that's unfortunate. And, um, I'm hoping that over time, It does just become more normal because like, they're just feet. Like we just have this weird thing about feet as a society, you know, wanting to cover them. Like we think that they're unattractive. They have to be hidden away or we fetish, you know, people fetishize them. It's just kind of like a lot of extremes. It's like, let's just get them out in the open. Just make it normal. Let feet be feet.

Natalie:

Yep. I agree. I agree. So if someone were looking for some more resources, your website is an awesome option. I know you've mentioned a couple articles already. Is there somewhere that you recommend people go, if they want to do more research or a specific article on your website, where would you send them?

Anya:

So my website is the place, the first place to go, and I have tried to organize it. Right on the homepage, you can see how to get started. So there's a link for if you're new to barefoot shoes and also to the frequently asked questions article. So those are kind of home base. If you're brand new to the concept, um, from there there's a lot more, you can just kind of dig into follow links to where you want to go with it. Like if you want to start looking at reviews, or if you want to start searching by category of shoe, like if like beginners or dress or, you know, whatever sandals, whatever it is that you particularly need also exercises around their foot exercises and, and links to additional resources like books and other, um, specialists who can help with specific individual foot problems, all of that's there. So that's where I would just say start there. And then you can kind of branch out from. And just go take it where you want it to go. Um, but the, that homepage is going to be the best place to get started. It's

Natalie:

really comprehensive. And I will tell you that I've had, like, I could probably spend hours on your website. I've had, I'm looking for like, she needs to wear to a wedding. I had like 17 different tabs, open reading your review. It's really, it's really beneficial for people like me who, who know the benefits already too, but just want to know how a specific brand of shoe fits or blast might look like on an actual foot. Because I noticed sometimes too that, um, minimal, minimal footwear brands, don't always have pictures of someone's feet in the shoes, on their website,

Anya:

which is just kind of sure are bad for most brands. I mean, they're small and it's hard to pay for photography. And I get that because I have a shop too, so I understand. Um, but yeah, I try to make the articles really practice. Because that's, you know, I mean, that's what I need if I'm shopping. So, um, I'm glad to hear you say that because I, I want it to be really useful for someone who's looking for something.

Natalie:

Yeah, definitely. Definitely. So, okay. To wrap up, I have two questions that I ask all of my guests. So the first one is what is your number one piece of advice for our listeners? What do you want everyone to know?

Anya:

So I kind of said this at the beginning and I'll just because it really is what I want everybody to know. I'll say it again. Um, there is something that you can do today that doesn't cost you anything, and it doesn't take much time that can improve your foot health. And so, uh, you know, all of us can do something. And have a benefit from it, whether it's wiggling your toes or just spending a little bit of time walking around your back yard barefoot, um, those things seem small, but they can actually make your life better and they can lead to bigger and better things that you didn't think you could do. So start small and just believe that it can help.

Natalie:

Awesome. Awesome. Okay. Next, which kind of ties really well into what you just said is what is your favorite wellness habit that you'd like to incorporate into your daily life?

Anya:

So I am kind of like a I cycle through all kinds of things. So it depends on the moment, but right now my personal favorite thing is breathe. Like meditative breath work in the morning. Okay. Tell me more. Um, I lay on my back with my knees. Which I've been told is like a really safe position for your nervous system. Like it feels really safe. And then there's a lot of things you can do. One of my favorite is to just breathe in for four or five counts and then exhale, as long as you possibly can really slow and gentle, and then just do that and focus on your breath. So you're not, you know, try to let your thoughts come in and out and just feel your breath in and your breath out. Uh, I love that also 360 breathing, practicing 360 breathing, where you put your hands around your ribs and you try to breathe so that your, your back fingers expand as well as your friend fingers. So you're not just breathing into your chest, but you're also breathing into your back. And I really love that coupled with a morning walk. I think that those two things are, are, um, My favorites right now. Morning walk is always my favorite. Okay. That's just always, I love a morning walk. How long do

Natalie:

you go for it? Typically?

Anya:

Um, my minimum is 15 minutes, which is a short, you know, that's like, uh, I have to get back for something because you know, I work and have kids to go to school and yeah. So 15 minutes I feel like is enough to clear my head, you know, get my blood flowing, get my, um, nervous system, sort of settled down a little bit, but I prefer 25 minutes. Um, and then I start my day and then I actually go try to go for 15 minute walks at least three times a day, which I know might sound like a lot. But if you take a 15 minute break and sit on your phone, you could just swap that for a little walk. And I really like the shorter walks breaking up my day because it's like a. A break to breathe and to move and to think and unwind. And then I feel like I can handle, you know, the afternoon slump or, you know, dinner time or bedtime or whatever. Um, yeah. Yeah. So, and that's how I feel about walks. It's an opportunity

Natalie:

to get fresh air too, which is just beneficial for so many things.

Anya:

Yes. And sunlight and all that.

Natalie:

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Okay. So tell us again where listeners can find you online. What website do you have? What's your Instagram, Instagram accounts?

Anya:

Sure. So my main website is Anya's reviews.com and that sort of the central hub. My online shoe store is Anya's dash shop.com. And then I also have a website called barefoot shoe finder.com, which is a database of brands. That has tons of filtering options by location and size and width and soul thickness and materials and waterproof, all kinds of things. That's really just, um, a second resource to add to the reviews so that you can filter and find what you need on social media. I'm on Instagram and Facebook. And my handle is Anya's reviews. So sometimes you get some new stuff there. That's not on the website. Um, and then my newsletter, I send out weekly with new launches. Like, you know, if you want to stay up to date on new releases in the barefoot shoe world or new articles or some movement tips, healthy feet tips, that sort of thing.

Natalie:

Cool. And people can send it through your newsletter through your website. Is that right?

Anya:

Yes. On user reviews.com.

Natalie:

Awesome. Awesome. So what's next for you? What big projects do you have coming up? Anything exciting you want to share?

Anya:

Well, We always have stuff coming down the pipeline with the shop. So that's always fun. We've added some brand new brands and we're always trying to expand that. And I'm, I'm always kind of working with brands to develop new shoes. So I can't really say too much about that, but yeah, but I love, you know, I love style. And so I'm have some ideas for some really cute shoes that could be improved and made barefoot, but I'd like that I'd like to, to, um, share. So otherwise I'm just going to keep plugging along, keep reviewing and write in articles and well, that's what

Natalie:

we do. That's what we need in this barefoot world. So thank you so much for chatting with me today and just going through lots of common questions that I know my clients have. I have. Um, yeah. Thanks for doing the work that you do. It's definitely needed.

Anya:

Well, thanks. It was fun. And I appreciate you having me on

Natalie:

Natalie. Yeah. Anytime. You're welcome back anytime. I loved getting the chance to actually sit down with Anya and ask her questions. Face-to-face. As I've been following her for quite some time. Now, my top takeaway is that there are things that you can do right now that are absolutely free and will improve your foot health. Start moving those toes, stretching those feet, massaging your feet and going barefoot just five minutes at a time around your house. I've linked all the resources on, you mentioned as well as her sites and social pages for you to follow in the show notes for this episode. Please remember that what you hear in this podcast is not medical advice, but remember to always do your own research and talk to your provider before making important decisions about your health. If you found this podcast helpful, please consider leaving a five-star review. Wherever you get your podcasts. It really helps other people find the show. Thanks so much for listening. I'll catch you next time.