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What are Negative Heel Shoes?

By Jenny Rae Armstrong
Updated May 21, 2024
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Negative heel shoes are shoes designed to keep the heel slightly lower than the rest of the foot to promote proper alignment of the spine. Unlike traditional footwear, which elevates the heel and shifts a person’s center of balance forward as they walk, the shoes work with the foot’s natural motion, with the heel striking the ground first and bearing the most weight. The shoes are also designed to be wider at the front and narrower at the heel to support the foot comfortably and avoid crowding the toes.

Developed by Danish yoga instructor Ann Kalso in the 1950s, the shoes mimic the traditional Tadasana, or mountain pose, taking the stress off one’s back, hips and knees and putting it on the leg muscles where it belongs. Walking in negative heel shoes gives the whole body a workout, similar to walking up a slight incline. The calf muscles are stretched, extra calories are burned, and parts of the body not usually involved in the walking process are engaged and exercised. Even standing still places one’s body in proper yogic alignment, a bonus for people looking for simple ways to incorporate more exercise into their daily routines.

Walking in negative heel shoes can take a while to get accustomed to. Beyond the extra demands the shoes place on a person’s muscles, some people find the altered center of balance disconcerting. Still, the fitness benefits of the shoes are a powerful draw, and many people report feeling better immediately after switching to them, receiving instant relief from knee, back and hip pain. Proponents of negative heel shoes claim the benefits are well worth any initial adjustment.

Marketed under the name Earth Shoes, negative heel shoes were first introduced to the United States in the 1970s, and became all the rage in “hippie” culture. The Earth Shoe craze died down in the 1980s, but enjoyed a resurgence in popularity around the turn of the millennium as environmentally-minded consumers searched for options that were good for the planet and good for their health.

Though many companies have incorporated negative heels into their footwear now, Earth Shoes still employ the original Kalso® Negative Heel Technology™, building a 3.7 degree incline into every shoe, sandal and boot. The shoes come in a wide variety of styles, colors and materials, and the company adheres to a high level of environmental accountability, making them an especially attractive choice to many consumers.

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Discussion Comments
By anon991550 — On Jun 29, 2015

-- "many companies have incorporated negative heels into their footwear now" --

Really? What companies? Where can I buy them? I have several pairs of Earth Shoes and I love them but I often wish there was more choice of styles.


By anon137601 — On Dec 28, 2010

I have been wearing Earth shoes for three years and there is definitely a difference. They take a couple of days to get used to, but well worth it.

Since buying my first pair of Earth shoes for work I have now replaced all of my shoes with Earth shoes (gym/running shoes, sandals, boots, casual, dressy). I highly recommend them and will now wear nothing else. They are extremely comfortable and do help with posture.

My best advice for choosing a pair of Earth shoes is to go into a store that sells them, try them on to get your size (I wear a 1/2 size larger in Earth shoes), and to see if you like the look. Then go home and search for them on eBay, amazon, etc., until you find a great deal--they can be expensive!

Most of my Earth shoes are not vegan -- I think only my sandals. Many of their shoes come in "vegan" but also can be made of leather. I always choose leather and leave the vegan shoes for the vegan people.

Bottom line: they are comfortable and the best shoes I have ever owned.

By googlefanz — On Oct 20, 2010

I've heard that they even make negative heel running shoes. I think that earthshoes has actually developed their own line, now that I think about it.

They say that it actually improves your running style by helping you to do the heel to toe technique, and they also say that it improves your posture, though I'm not sure if that's related to the running or not.

Has anybody reading this ever used negative heel running shoes, can you tell me if they actually work, or if it's just another gimmick?

By zenmaster — On Oct 20, 2010

I've been reading a lot of negative heel shoe reviews, and it seems like a lot of them are kind of trying to hop on the eco-friendly shoes bandwagon.

Is there some reason for the connection between the two; for instance, is a negative heeled shoe better for your health if its made out of vegetarian materials?

I'm honestly just curious, since it seems that there's such a strong correlation -- what can you tell me about that?

By rallenwriter — On Oct 20, 2010

This is cool -- I had seen these kinds of shoes before but we always just called them vegan boots, since everybody in my school who wore them were very militant vegans.

Now it seems like negative heel shoes are making a comeback -- I see all kinds of shoes with negative heels being marketed as fitness shoes and weight loss shoes.

Now I'm looking into a pair of earth boots myself -- they really look quite comfortable, and they're not nearly as chunky and super-vegany as they used to be (at least it seems that way to me).

So can you tell me the best tips for choosing negative heel shoes for women?

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