Your Friday Dose of Woo: It's all in the shoes, or is it?


One of the favorite failings in logic and science among the woo-friendly crowd is the ever-famous one of confusing correlation with causation, also known as non causa pro causa, which means "non-cause for the cause." Examples of this are rampant, and include the antivaccinationists who confuse correlation with vaccination and the age at which autism is usually first recognized with vaccines causing autism, taking a homeopathic remedy shortly before having their symptoms resolve spontaneously and mistaking this for the efficacy of the homeopathic remedy, chelating children with autism and observing "improvement" that is in reality nothing more than natural development and concluding that the chelation therapy is "curing" autism, or even blaming global warming on the decrease in the number of pirates over the last three hundred years.

Sometimes, the confusion of correlation with causation can take an amazing extreme, and this week I've found a real doozy. Did you know that there is a simple discovery that's millennia old that is the cause of horrible diseases such as obesity, depression, fatigue, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's disease? Naturally, doctors don't recognize this simple cause, but the correlation of the rise of these diseases with this discovery is, as you will see, indisputable. So join me, then, as we enter a site that dares to reveal this horror of horrors. Join me as we peruse Shoebusters:

The purpose of is to stimulate interest, discussion, and research about the effects of shoes and socks on major human illnesses and conditions such as obesity, depression, fatigue, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis, and even the much-dreaded Alzheimer's disease, to name but a handful.

"Shoes and disease?" you may incredulously wonder. Yes, as strange as the connection may initially appear, footwear seems to be a cause of disease in humans.

Chiropodist Dr. Simon J. Wikler first proposed this novel idea way back in 1953. (1) After treating the feet of his patients who presented with typical foot defects, Dr. Wikler noticed a wide variety of other diseases and conditions resolving on their own. Following his great insight, extensions are made to include many other illnesses, addictions, and disorders that continue to plague generations of humans.

"Chiropodist"? I wondered what that is. My first thought was that it was some sort of unholy union of a legitimate specialty (podiatrist) with a woo (chiropractor). Sadly, I was very disappointed to learn that it's just the British word for podiatrist. Oh, well. So much for a source of many jokes. That's OK, though. There's lots of other stuff there, starting with a long discussion of why our feet are not the way they should be. It starts out with pictures of the feet of native populations in the Philippines and Central America that do not wear shoes, showing widely splayed toes, which are compared to photos of the feet of people who wear shoes, which appear to have bunions and don't look at all like that. There then follows a long discussion about the evils of wearing shoes and socks, which, we are told, compress the feet, cause an abnormal gait, and lead to all sorts of other indignities to the feet (indignities which, depending on the shoe, are legitimate, as any woman whose back pain and foot pain are due to high heels or man whose feet ache after wearing dress shoes all day). Of course, few would argue that shoes designed more for looks than comfort and easy walking can cause problems, but few would claim that these problems are more than musculoskeletal.

Not Shoebusters.

Of course, doctors don't recognize the horror that we as a civilization have inflicted upon ourselves:

There are many possible reasons why shoes have been completely overlooked as a cause of disease. Perhaps the simplest explanation is that we adults are not aware of our deformed feet any more than a two-year-old is aware of theirs. We merely grow up in this way unquestioningly assuming our feet, and bodies, to be as Nature intended. Our feet are certainly "normal" in the sense that they are like the feet of everyone else, but they are abnormal, or unnatural, in another sense, because Nature was not expecting us to wear shoes from birth. Since we accept our bodies and the items on them as being "normal", we tend to look for reasons outside of ourselves when things go wrong. Without a doubt, the most popular external blame for degenerative disease is food or diet.

The crowd has been chasing the subject of diet and disease for well over a century, leaving behind nobody to consider the subject of shoes and disease. A search on the National Library of Medicine's PubMed database for "diet cancer" returns over 17,000 papers, nearly 500 per year since the 1960's. (10) For the last half-century on average, one or two papers are being published every single day about diet and cancer. However, a search for "barefoot cancer" on the PubMed database returns a negligible handful of papers concerned with other matters, absolutely none studying the effects of foot imbalance and shoes on breast, prostate, or colon cancers in humans. Actually, a search on the PubMed database for "diet" returns a voluminous 200,000 papers, greatly outnumbering a search for "shoes" by an overwhelming 60-to-1 ratio. No serious attention or research has ever focused on the foot and disease like it has on food and disease. A search for "high cholesterol shoes" on the PubMed database returned no papers at all. (10)

I did such a search myself (barefoot and cancer), and most of the articles appeared to be about plantar warts. It must be a huge conspiracy! In fact, consider these observations:

  1. Multiple sclerosis: "Multiple sclerosis is one such disease that typically affects relatively young and healthy people, and there is no known cause, prevention, or cure. However, a careful glance at a map of worldwide prevalence of the autoimmune disease reveals that people in the United States and Europe have a higher chance of developing it, than those in undeveloped countries, where children go unshod more often.

    "Even a modern industrialized country--surely full of pollutants and chemical toxins--can have a multiple sclerosis rate lower than the United States, as evidenced by Japan, which uses footwear less often. Furthermore, northern countries have higher incidence rates of multiple sclerosis than southern latitudes. Deforming shoes are worn more often in colder climates but less often when the weather is sunny and warm. For example, winter boots can limit ankle movement, in addition to compressing the toes."
  2. Lung Cancer: "Perhaps the single most famous statistical correlation with disease is cigarette smoking and lung cancer. According to the 2003 version of the American Lung Association's website on tobacco, smoking is "directly responsible for 87 percent of lung cancer cases and causes most cases of emphysema and chronic bronchitis." Extremely precise figures such as 87% raise a yellow flag, because it is unlikely that anyone in this world knows to such precision the number of lung cancer cases which stem from a specific source. That surprisingly precise figure immediately jeopardizes the validity of the conclusion. The American Lung Association's statement on lung cancer completely ignores any other possibility, and there is a big one indeed.

    "As 'crazy' as the notion may initially appear, does widespread lung cancer and addiction to cigarettes actually originate from wearing shoes since birth? After all, the people in those statistical studies who smoke, have worn shoes for a much more significant part of their lives, so the same statistics support a much stronger correlation. Wearing shoes since birth is a constant 24-hour-a-day, lifetime source of real physical stress, which is not relieved by attempts to quit smoking, and in many cases, any addiction is only replaced by another. Even the father of modern psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud--wearer of fashionable shoes--was himself hopelessly addicted to cigars and unable to control his addiction or remain objective in his own care, making himself believe that his addiction was actually beneficial to his disease.

    "The strong statistical correlation of lung cancer and shoes is backed by reasonable physical evidence. The changes to the shape and excursion of the diaphragm from a flattened chest and sagging spine can be physically measured and compared to a shoeless, cancer-free native. These physical changes are relevant for any discussion of lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and even the respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, that plague non-smokers as well. The delicate and expandable tissues in the lungs of any shod person, including non-smokers, are required to operate in crowded, congested conditions, leaving the organ prone to infection and disease. Thus, it is premature to conclude that cigarette smoke is "directly responsible" for lung cancer.

    "Statistically, there are regional differences that are not explained by smoking cigarettes: According to the Centers for Disease Control 1997 report on tobacco smoking, more cigarettes are consumed in Japan than in the United States, yet lung cancer rates are lower. There appear to be some people who can smoke a lot and never get lung cancer, and others who never smoke at all, yet get the disease anyway. Even women, smoking the same cigarettes as men, are thought to have the higher rate of lung cancer between the two genders worldwide. The statement, "Cigarette smoking is directly responsible for lung cancer", completely ignores such statistical data, but the habitual use of footwear since birth explains it precisely."

    [ORAC NOTE: It occurs to me that this guy could work for the tobacco industry and do quite nicely trying to cast doubt on the science that secondhand smoke is a health hazard.)
  3. Alzheimer's disease: The modern shoe could actually be the only cause of Alzheimer's disease because it seems to be the only thing capable of robbing a person of the essence of their humanity, both metaphorically and physically. The foot is responsible for our unique human traits amongst Nature, and each person is born with a unique footprint. A lifetime of wearing a modern shoe over the foot significantly alters this "essence" of humanity, so could it climax in a total loss of an individual's unique personality? After all, women's footwear is more physically deforming to the feet because of higher heels, pointier toes, and smaller sizes, and Alzheimer's disease affects them disproportionately more than men.

    A German woman in her early 50's known as "Auguste D." was Dr. Alzheimer's first clinical case of the disease around 1901, and she presented with much general nervousness and a poor weight--symptoms that are also related to footwear use. This landmark influential case occurred only several decades after modern shoes started becoming wildly popular in America and Europe. The first Alzheimer's patient was born on May 16, 1850, during the last year that shoes were made completely by hand.

    [ORAC NOTE: What an amazing correlation!]
  4. Breast cancer: "Dr. Wikler observed that rounding of the shoulders in humans puts tissue at a mechanical disadvantage. He explains, "The breast is slung between strong fibrous bands (fascia) that arise from the breast and collarbones. As long as the shoulders are thrust back and the chest held erect, breasts can become very heavy and sag considerably without undue strain to these fibrous bands. In the characteristic posture of unbalanced feet, however, the shoulders slump forward and, instead of the breast bone being prominent, the armpits are now more forward. It becomes mechanically impossible for the breast-and-collarbone fascia to support the breast. Weak fibers from the outer side of the chest attached to the armpits must now do the job. But these fibers are incapable. So there is a constant straining and tearing at these tissues on the upper outer part of the breast. It is exactly in this site that more than 90% of breast cancer is found, and it can be reasonably concluded that the deformation of the feet may be an important cause."

    [ORAC NOTE: Although it is true that breast cancer is more common in the upper outer quadrant (although it is totally incorrect to claim that 90% of cancers are found there), it is believed to be simply because there is more breast tissue there relative to the other quadrants, although it has been claimed that the use of deodorants are the One True Cause.]

Are you convinced? It sure sounded convincing to me.


Except that my skeptical antennae began twitching. This woo, as wondrously wild and wooly as it was, seemed a bit too tongue-in-cheek in some passages. Could it be that I was being punk'd again? I decided to read more deeply and peruse more of the web pages. First, there was this:

However, the ramblings in this thesis should be considered merely a collection of opinions or observations, nothing more. So, if you actually choose to continue reading its sections, as they are organized below, then please remain extremely skeptical and perform the background investigations necessary in forming your own views.

Was that a hint that perhaps this was an elaborate hoax? This stuff was simply sounding too outlandish to be for real. On the other hand, there is nothing in this entire website that is any more outlandish than what I've found on the websites of homeopaths and reiki masters. Indeed, this website certainly isn't any more outlandish than websites I've found about DNA activation, Dr. Emoto's water woo, Breatharianism, detoxifying foot pads, spiritually guided surgery, the "no plane" variety of the "9/11 Truth" movement, trepanation, the SCIO, the Healing Broom, the Tesla Purple Energy Shield, the "Dorian Gray" tonoscope, DNA reprogramming, or--hell!--just about any previous installment of Your Friday Dose of Woo. Truly, distinguishing True Woo from Punk'd! Woo is difficult; so let's look further:

At no other time in history have we developed such control over infectious and nutritional disease throughout the mass population. During this exact same period, shoes and socks became cheap, widely available, and worn by many since birth, such that few have suspected these common, everyday items to be so involved in the resulting diseases that remain to be conquered. Yet while germs on the hands can produce illness, so too can shoes on the feet. And just as nobody once thought to wash the hands to control infectious disease, so are shod people neglecting to bare the feet to control degenerative disease. But the common person of today knows much more about the prevention of infectious disease using soap, than did the top scientists and doctors of 150 years ago. So the same will hold true for future, unshod generations naturally preventing degenerative diseases that today's most eminent researchers, Nobel laureates, and specialists have failed to cure.

Now this is definitely sounding like satire. However, the best satire is that which is very hard to distinguish from the object being satirized, and this still certainly qualifies, if satire it is. Consequently, I had to keep searching for other indications. I found them here:

While some believe that too much curiosity kills cats, James P. Semmel's "vice", of asking just too many questions of doctors and surgeons, demonstrates that it can actually have the opposite effect in humans. is the result of a decade of efforts by this 32-year-old electrical engineer from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to understand the ailments and illnesses afflicting himself and those around him, yet fewer outside of the United States.

Following in the footsteps of the noble chiropodist Dr. Simon J. Wikler, James decided to jump in with both feet and get a toehold by constantly questioning the cobbled-up approaches that well-heeled researchers have stood behind for over a century. Practically running on empty with his narrow, shoestring budget, James stumbled his way down years of dead-end paths in controlling his own diseases by using the same head-over-heels methods of modern practitioners, but always getting back on his feet and putting his best foot forward. Naturally, such repeated failures had James questioning the boots he was trying to fill.

This continues for five more equally painful paragraphs of bad jokes and puns about feet and footwear. But is that enough? Maybe, but then there was the bibliography, especially reference #11:

Huff, Darrell. "How to Lie with Statistics", Originally published 1954, reissued in 1993 by W.W. Norton and Company, ISBN 0393310728. Yet another great book from the 1950's that remains in print and relevant today. An entertaining read, the classic book teaches how to sort through the unending stream of studies, polls, and advertisements all trying to get your opinion, your vote, or your money. The author writes, "In our time it is easy to show a positive correlation between any pair of things like these: number of students in college, number of inmates in mental institutions, consumption of cigarettes, incidence of heart disease, use of X-ray machines, production of false teeth, salaries of California school teachers, profits of Nevada gambling halls. To call some one of these the cause of some other is manifestly silly. But it is done every day."

Gotcha! Nice work indeed! This would be most excellent woo if it weren't a joke!

Now I know what you're thinking: If Orac figured out that this was all an elaborate put-on, then why did he feature it in Your Friday Dose of Woo? Excellent question! The reason is that there are a lot of woo-meisters out there who apparently have failed to see through the joke and take this seriously. Isn't the fact that it's such an awesomely spot-on parody of the "correlation/causation" fallacy reason enough? Or that the author has been known to troll various health discussion forums with his claims?

No, I guess you're right.

How about this? Here's a little background. There really was a Simon J. Wikler. He really did write a book called Take Off Your Shoes and Walk. There really is a Dr. William Rossi. He really did write a book entitled The Sex Life of the Foot and Shoe and articles entitled Why Shoes Make "Normal" Gait Impossible, Footwear: The Primary Cause of Foot Disorders, Fashion and Foot Deformation, and Children's Footwear: Launching Site for Adult Foot Ills. However, as far as I can tell, neither of these authors blamed badly designed shoes for anything other than musculoskeletal problems of the feet, legs, hips, and spine. The problem was, apparently Dr. Wikler was into woo and did make claims for other diseases, as recounted here:

  • There is no record of foot troubles in ancient times comparable to modern foot ills.
  • The seeds of foot trouble were first sown in the middle Ages.
  • The introduction of the elevated heel and the pointed toe marked the beginning of modern foot disabilities.

Perfect correlation/causation fallacy, no? But then here are even more outlandish claims:

Shoes not only deform your feet over time but they often protect the feet so much that certain foot muscles get lazy because they're not being used. In contrast people who go barefoot often have:


  • Improved circulatory function because the motion you get from your unrestricted foot when walking barefoot activates a host of muscles in people's foot and legs, which in turn helps to pump blood back to their hearts. This motion may not be as effective if your foot is confined in a shoe, especially if it's a poor fitting shoe. This muscle action prevents the pooling of blood in your feet and legs, reducing the stress on the entire cardiovascular system and reducing blood pressure. This is why going barefoot is recommended to prevent vein problems.

    [ORAC NOTE: This is pure woo, plain and simple. There's no evidence to support it.]
  • A better contact to nature because life-force energy called Chi (also called Qi or Prana) can only be absorbed through the soles of the feet. Ground Chi is absorbed automatically and unconsciously when walking barefoot, which may be one of the reasons why it's so relaxing to walk without shoes on and why exercises geared toward strengthening the body and relaxing the mind (yoga, tai chi, martial arts) are also typically practiced barefoot.

    [ORAC NOTE: "Ground chi" that can only be absorbed through the soles of the feet? Now we're talking seriously real woo here! Does this mean that going barefoot redirects my qi to make me healthier?]

Of course, no woo would be complete without products to sell based on it, and there's lots of foot woo here. In fact, I rather suspect that Earth Shoes, something to which I subjected myself in the 1970s, were based on this woo. Now, we have things like FiveFingers:i-2cb249b1dae236ff5ac94ce4ee912fbb-fivefingers-sand-200.jpg

FiveFingers enhances your natural barefoot walking motion as they provide contact to the ground, gently spreads your toes to strengthen foot muscles, increase range of motion, and improves general foot health. They also stimulate muscles in your feet and lower legs for greater balance, agility and strength and also helps straighten your spine, improve your posture, which may reduce or prevent lower back pain.

After using Fivefingers for 2 months I believe these unique "shoes" are an unrivalled alternative to conventional footwear. They are the first and only footwear to offer the exhilarating and natural feelings of going barefoot--with the protection from sharp objects and surefooted grip of a Vibram sole.

But, but...they look really funny! And what about the consequences of artificially spreading one's toes out like that? Will that affect circulation too? What about ground qi? That would still be blocked by the rubber out of which these are made.

Not surprisingly, Dr. Wikler's woo seems very much akin to the quackery known as reflexology. Whatever valid points he may have had about the effect of tight or badly made shoes on foot health, it's clear that he took it off the deep end by at least--forgive me--one footstep too many.

More like this

Brilliant! There are a lot of hoax sites out there, some easy to spot and others much more subtle. I remember Amstel Light running a "counter" campaign sponsored by the Decency Council (or some such) it was a stab at the fading Moral Majority and seemed to be a very popular marketing ploy. The trouble is when people actually fail to see the errors in reasoning or use their own biases to believe in utter bunk. Truly, those purveying such drivel have no sole.

....this 32-year-old electrical engineer....
Subtle touch, that. Because whether it's creationism or anything else, nothing says "pseudoscience" like an engineer claiming to re-write an entire field he knows nothing about, while waving his engineering credentials to give himself credibility.

(And before someone jumps on me: I have a friggin' Masters of Engineering. I also know my limitations).

I can't imagine any woo-woos read Huff.

I like the fivefingers goofy shoes, though: predict an increase in spotting of sasquatch tracks!

Unfortunately they left out the actual mechanism by which shoes cause all of these diseases. They block the colonization of the feet with ammonia oxidizing bacteria, which generate NO and nitrite.

This is the reason for the abundance of sweat glands on the paws of many animals, even those such as mice and rats which do not use sweating for temperature control. They still have sweat glands on the feet, so as to nourish a biofilm of ammonia oxidizing bacteria to protect the feet from infection by heterotrophic bacteria.

The sweating in response to stress is to administer NO/NOx to your body so as to better cope with the stress and any injury which occurs during the stressful event. Nitrite greatly reduces infarct size due to acute ischemic events in heart, liver and brain.

You can still get these bacteria on your feet even if you wear shoes, but it is more difficult. If you have the right bacteria, shoes might even help by reducing the loss of NO and NOx to ambient air.

One way to tell is if your feet stink, then you certainly do not have the right bacteria. If you do have the right bacteria your feet will not stink even if you never wash them.

Having been diagnosed with MS for 20 years now, since I was thirty, this is an eye-opener! If I had only taken my shoes off! No need for all those expensive medical tests and repeated trips to the neurologist! Just go barefoot!

Of course, my employers over the years might have been a tad non-supportive (pun intended).

Having been diagnosed with MS for 20 years now, since I was thirty, this is an eye-opener! If I had only taken my shoes off! No need for all those expensive medical tests and repeated trips to the neurologist! Just go barefoot!

Of course, my employers over the years might have been a tad non-supportive (pun intended).

I'm known for being barefoot (if I go into a grocery store or such and slip on my Birkenstocks)until the snow flies and I'm forced into my (very roomy) felt pack boots. I have multiple sclerosis....

This is only marginally related, but... I once read a book about the old Chinese custom of binding the feet of girls and women. There were photos. It was amazing and awful. I'm sure if anyone's curious they'll be able to find similar information online somewhere. Anyway, the whole thing with feet and shoes fascinates me. Especially the number of women in the US who are "really into shoes" -- essentially, fetishizing their own feet. Weird. Very weird. They're FEET, for heaven's sake! It's not that I think feet are dirty or nasty, but I don't get how people can be so obsessed with something so...utilitarian. I guess it's just another testament to the complexity of the human mind.

I had deformed feet and an abnormal gait before I ever put on a pair of shoes. Oh no, it's hereditary!

(This is correct, inasmuch as there's probably a genetic predisposition towards cerebral palsy...)

By Interrobang (not verified) on 25 Jan 2008 #permalink

...Ground Chi...

I bet that would make a good hamburger patty. Mmmm...

Wasn't this a skit on a late-night comedy show once? Something about how all crack addicts drank milk as children, so milk is a gateway drug and ought to be illegal?

Rebecca: I wonder what the incidence of disease was in chinese foot binding women. They must have been cancer clusters like we've never seen.

I tried searching for "high cholestrol" and "shoes" on MedLine and got absolutely no hits. This has to be a sure sign of a conspiracy!

I tried the same search on Web of Science and my browser laughed at me.

Like Orac, I'm not sure if this is the "real thing" or an elaborate parody. It's hard to tell. After all, it's hard to tell a parody from a farce.


As I read this Friday's Dose of Woo I couldn't get the Kelly song out of my head: "...Shoes's get some shoes...."

I agree, citing Huff's How To Lie With Statistics is the dead giveaway that it's satire. I'm impressed, though, that the two examples you gave of his trolling health discussion forums were greeted with general skepticism and gawfaws by their inhabitants.

I wonder if pirates wore shoes, and whether this also correlates with global warming?

There is probably some truth in the idea, but it's really unnatural practices in general, not just wearing shoes. Americans wear shoes, but they also walk very little -- if you don't walk much, how can shoes make such a difference?

I think wearing certain kinds of shoes is very bad, but so is sitting in chairs for hours -- at work, at home, in the car.

It's a mistake to minimize the impact of all our unnatural practices. Bad posture causes more than aches and pains -- the shoebusters are correct in blaming many modern illnesses on bad posture. Of course they are wrong in saying it's all because of shoes. It's shoes, chairs, lack of exercise, and many other unnatural things.

I have practiced yoga for decades and have gradually gotten away from shoes as a result. Of course we can't go around barefoot, but we can wear light and flexible slippers or sandals that leave the feet as free as possible.

Of course women's shoes with high heels and pointed toes are the worst, especially if they are tight. But if a woman only walks from the couch to the car to the office chair (as do most), then her shoes won't have a big impact on health. She is going to have bad health for many reasons.

I see a lot of Americans, male and female, wearing sneakers but sneakers can be bad also -- they are usually too soft and prevent the foot from landing at the correct angle. Also, they may be tight and squeeze the toes.

So yeah, the shoebusters make a lot of logical errors. But mainstream medical science makes all kinds of incorrect inferences from correlations also. It's a general human weakness.

And we don't always have a controlled study to base important health decisions on. In fact, we rarely have clear and unambiguous evidence and often must resort to personal experiences and observations of correlations.

I came to the conclusion that shoes are evil all on my own. Never heard of shoebusters -- thanks, I will look at it.

A last comment about feet -- they resemble hands more than they resemble hooves or paws. They are less hand-like than the feet of our primate relatives, but they still have that flexible and graspy feeling. When you walk correctly, without shoes or with minimalist shoes, your feet sort of grasp the ground and it feels good. It's natural, and like most natural things it just feels right.

Modern feet really do suffer. Even if they don't hurt they feel tired and neglected. Feet are not just something you stand on, they are alive and sensitive and they connect you with the earth.

If you must wear shoes, make sure they are not too narrow. And make sure they are flexible and the soles are flat.

Sastra - regarding pirates and shoes - In the days of wooden ships and iron men, the sailors would go barefoot during a battle in order to have better traction on blood soaked deck.

When I was a kid I had some real moosehide moccasins - they were the most comfortable things I ever wore on my feet. Didn't cure my asthma though.

By Freddy the Pig (not verified) on 25 Jan 2008 #permalink

My grandfather was a GP/family physician from the 1930s until his death (in his chair in his office) at the age of 79. He was a staunch atheist and skeptic, and by all accounts a superb diagnostician. One day a man came to him, desperate because he had been having severe and unremitting headaches for some time, and no treatments had worked, nor had any doctors been able to diagnose his condition. My grandfather told the man to take off his shoes. After examining the shoes and the man's feet, my grandfather told him that his headaches were caused by the fact that his shoes were a couple of sizes too small. No chi blockages, just interactions among body parts. New shoes apparently provided the cure.

My grandfather was a GP/family physician from the 1930s until his death (in his chair in his office) at the age of 79. He was a staunch atheist and skeptic, and by all accounts a superb diagnostician. One day a man came to him, desperate because he had been having severe and unremitting headaches for some time, and no treatments had worked, nor had any doctors been able to diagnose his condition. My grandfather told the man to take off his shoes. After examining the shoes and the man's feet, my grandfather told him that his headaches were caused by the fact that his shoes were a couple of sizes too small. No chi blockages, just interactions among body parts. New shoes apparently provided the cure.

A most amusing bit of Woo.
now, where'd I put my wooden shoes ?

Good satire. But you know what tipped me off? No mystery words, references to quantum mechanics, or anything else that would confuse anyone enough to make them think maybe there was something to it. Rather, arguments that anyone who knows enough to be able to read the article on the web would catch-- like the lack of findings for "high cholesterol shoes". I think most people would go, well, duh, science hasn't researched the effect on shoes on cholesterol because it's so bloody obvious it wouldn't have any positive findings. We also don't have a lot of research papers on the effects of purses on diabetes, or rubber bracelets and recovery from stroke. The obviousness of this would strike, I think, even the wooiest of my woo-y friends. (And I have one who seems to swallow a ton of woo. I did make sure she would talk to her doctor before buying a ton of products to balance her pH, but generally, she does not want skepticism).

Before I realized it was sarcasm, though, I found myself wondering how tetanus and frostbite contribute to the lack of disease later in life in shoeless environments.

By Samantha Vimes (not verified) on 26 Jan 2008 #permalink

Mmmm. As a small child it was apparently difficult to force me to wear shoes. As I got older, encounters with ants, cactuses, and oh yes, various large hooves persuaded me to, well, safeguard my health and avoid pain a little more....

This satire rides a mere hair's-breadth away from the sincere woo. Wow.

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 26 Jan 2008 #permalink

Winter -- put on shoes and/or boots -- cold and flu season... Summer -- go barefoot or wear sandals -- not cold and flu season. I'm sold!!!

The crowd has been chasing the subject of diet and disease for well over a century, leaving behind nobody to consider the subject of shoes and disease.
Well, obviously the people with shoes ran on ahead.

Who will put their foot down and take immediate steps to prevent the harm caused by shoes? Now that this site has done the necessary footwork, we can get a leg up on all kinds of diseases. But only if someone has the courage to stand up and walk the extra mile.

...Well, that's what I'd say if they had any evidence to support their claims. As it is, they haven't got a leg to stand on.

Hey, as a Pastafarian, I wholly object to your lumping the pirates and global warming theory in together with all the other ridiculous cause/correlation pseudoscience. It's just not the same.

For one thing, the pirates/global warming thing is a matter of faith, not science.

For another thing, it's SARCASM. The spiritual leader, who speaks for the Great Noodly One, uses it to mock others who don't understand cause/correlation (particularly the Creationists and ID-ists).

And for one final thing -- the theory has been completely debunked. In fact, there's been a rise in global piracy, not a decrease.

Sorry guys, but this no-show guy is for real. --ABQ.

By Cant-say-who (not verified) on 26 Jan 2008 #permalink

Oops, just above, "no-show" should be "no-shoe".

By Cant-say-who (not verified) on 26 Jan 2008 #permalink

"Semmel's vice", after a mention of germs and hadwashing? Gotta be satire!

With your post on anti-shoe satire/woo, you've given me some insight into what might be a limitation with Evidence-Based Medicine. Controlled studies probably aren't the way people evaluate choices in their personal lives, and it certainly isn't the way bodies respond to events and conditions. I'm not saying EBM isn't the best way for doctors to make decisions in treating illness, but the EBM filter may obscure a doctor's empathy -- and certainly that of an arrogant Plexiglas box with fake flashing lights as well. I guess I'm going to have to counter with a sort of "California holistic" position on the contribution of fit feet to the on-going mental and physical well-being of a person.

Of course the extensive Shoebusters list of horrible diseases caused by shoes is ridiculous, but foot condition does contribute to posture, balance and attitude, and those further affect the person's health. For someone like myself, passing 70 and teaching other elders balance and Tai Chi, keeping feet in shape seems to prevent broken hips, an all too frequent and serious concern of my age group that was not even on the satyrical list. Lifelong reduced shoe wearing may lead to benefits through old age, but, as a last resort in advancing age, balance becoming less certain, it's never too late to get the shoes off and try to feel the ground! Reactivate the muscles that strengthen ankles and feet by unbinding them, and be attentive to the connection between the feet and one's center of mass.

I realize shoes are important in preventing injury and chill, especially to vulnerable elders, but that can be accomplished with socks and about an eighth inch of sole. Heavy, bulky, or stylish heeled shoes are of more benefit to the shoe industry than to the wearers, and they should be set aside in safe environments in favor of barefoot exercise. Yes, claims of benefits of walking unshod on cobblestones may be anecdotal, but opportunities to learn to preserve one's vitality in aging diminish with time. What's the alternative? Just give up and wait? Don't try to keep your body fit? Trust that a doctor can patch up whatever is lost thru disuse?

[Note Orac: No, Qi is not literally some kind of energy you absorb from the ground. Qi is a visualization model for body tone and control of strength and movement that is ground based, ground support against gravity being directly sensed through the feet, best without shoes.]

I wonder if Shoebusters has a financial interest in a firm that has been advertising lately. They sell sticky pads to put on your feet, which suck out toxins, heavy metals, even cellulite, while you sleep. The evidence is convincing--they took a pad off someone's foot after use, and the pad was filthy!