Kuru Footwear is the latest example of superficially treating the symptoms of a foot injury without addressing the underlying cause. In this case, Kuru has planted its feet-first flag on plantar fasciitis, the scourge of runners. Never had pf? You are lucky or smart, or both. If you had pf, you know what an icepick-jabbing-in the-bottom-of-the-foot nightmarish pain it can be. Kuru’s “remedy” is more shoe and lots of it. Its complete product line of walking and running shoes feature a reinforced arch, energy-return foam piece, a whopping big insert called a HeelKradl, a molding sockliner, EVA midsole, and the dual density outsole. Yet ironically, the Kuru says right there on its website that its design philosophy is “less is more.” It also says it’s “the world’s most anatomical footwear.” Don’t believe either claim.
Kuru shoes are based on the idea that a person’s foot should be supported completely and entirely throughout the shoe. Its motto is “if your foot isn’t flat, then your shoe shouldn’t be flat.” This is interesting because in a way, it also wrongly assumes that everybody has a similar arch depth in their foot, and, despite any evidence, wants the arch of the foot to be supported when walking, running, or even standing. Clearly nobody at Kuru bothered to look at the actual biomechanics of the foot and realize at least one simple fact – the arch is a major source of proprioception – which ultimately means that it tells your body where you are in relation to the ground. Balance, stability, and fine motor skills all rely on this proprioception from the arch – not from your orthotic Kuru shoes. Plus, the arch is designed to bend, not be supported.
You gotta admire the sheer chutzpa of Kuru’s website. It’s one of those “feel good” sites that sugarcoats the questionable product being sold. Kuru, I found out, is a former city in Finland. I don’t know why it’s no longer called that, but the people at Kuru Footwear say that the water there is so pure you can drink from the streams. I checked out Google Maps and saw a stream by the main highway. In any case, the company is headquartered in Salt Lake City, UT, where drinking water needs to be piped in.
As I mentioned up front, Kuru’s primary marketing pitch is the plantar fasciitis angle. Yes, when someone does develop heel pain or pain near the arch and it’s diagnosed as plantar fasciitis, support typically does help. But it sure won’t fix it. Plantar fasciitis is due to a weakening of the tibialis posterior muscle, which sits behind your shin bone. This muscle starts just below the knee and extends all the way down to support the main arch of the foot. So when the tibialis posterior muscle doesn’t function well, the arch fatigues to some degree, and plantar fasciitis results.
Plantar fasciitis symptoms are usually worse in the morning, and tend to ease off or go away as you walk throughout the day. The pain can be sharp over one specific point, or more diffuse throughout the fascia (sheath of muscle) of the foot. Today this is treated conventionally with “night splints” to help stretch the fascia, and reduce muscle contracture. It is not a very comfortable way to sleep and the therapy is about as beneficial and primitive as a caveman making a square wheel. As with most pain, anti-inflammatories are prescribed—and they only further mask the symptoms.
Often muscle trigger points (sore spots) can be found in the calf muscles, especially just behind the tibia – that’s your main shin bone as people know it. Rub them out, they’ll be sore. Orthotics, braces, and Kuru, will not cure your plantar fasciitis because they don’t do anything to fix the problem. But wearing improper foot wear will create and/or support plantar fasciitis. Hey, just listen to an exact quote from Dr. Roger Sheffield on the Kuru site, “I’ve developed plantar fasciitis and my Kuru’s are by far the most comfortable shoe as I deal with this condition.” Deal with this condition, but don’t address the problem? ( A Google search informed me that Sheffield is an ER doc in Utah.)
There are much better ways to correct plantar fasciitis than investing in a pair of oversupported shoes that won’t do justice to your feet anyway. If you have plantar fasciitis you are under more stress than you can handle – whether that be from overtraining (too much anaerobic activity, or lack of an aerobic base), working too hard, dietary stress (too much sugar, not enough protein or nutrient-dense foods), emotional stress, or other physical trauma/stress – which can be anywhere in the body, not just in the foot.
Even a pair of poor-fitting pair of shoes can cause plantar fasciitis. The calf muscles are also commonly involved as often are other leg muscles in the thigh and hip. The imbalance in the muscles causes the plantar fascia to tighten and spasm to help support the foot. Addressing the reason for the muscle imbalances will address the plantar fasciitis problem, and the reason is not because you need to stretch it more, or didn’t stretch it enough. Often muscle trigger points (sore spots) can be found in the calf muscles, especially just behind the tibia. Rub them out, they’ll be sore.
Kurus won’t cure plantar fasciitis. But the company does offer a money-back guarantee if you return them within 35 days. But please note, the shoes must be in “new” condition. So if you’re going to test them out, do so indoors and maybe even in bed.
Here’s What You Should Do Instead if You Have Plantar Fasciitis:
- Rub out any muscle trigger points behind the shin bone all the way down to the Achilles Tendon
- Strengthen your foot muscles by walking barefoot as much as possible and trying to pick up small objects (like marbles) by crunching your toes
- Wear minimalist-type shoes with a wide toe box, low to zero-drop, and little support.
–You may need to ease into these if you’ve been in thick-heeled supportive shoes for a long time
- Do not stretch your calves, since this will only lengthen the injured muscle.
- See my plantar fasciitis video here.
* This article was originally written for Zero-Drop.