The Loafer Dilemma

The modern loafer popularized by the Spaulding athletic company and most notably by John Bass in the early 1930’s has become a shoe mainstay for both women and men dress casual shoes.

The origin of the shoes dates to Norwegian fisherman who constructed a simple stitched, easy to slip on leather shoe.  The shoe style is a perfect example of the difficulty between fashion and function. It has some strong fashion styling but lacks basic function if you have a lower extremity condition.

The challenge for this style shoe for both men and women is hidden in its simple features. The shoe is a slip-on shoe by design. Its loose heel counter makes it an exceptionally easy shoe to slip on the foot but to keep the shoe on the foot the forepart of the foot has to be very snug. The loose heel construction allows the heel to slip while walking. The shoe stays on the foot by providing a “snug” fit through the forefoot region. The snugness as well as heel slippage increases friction against the skin which can lead to a higher rate of callus build up on the feet. Calluses or “corns” on the foot can be a significant cause of foot pain. With increased slippage also comes less support of the shoe. Many treatments for foot conditions utilize a snug lace up fit along with the temporary use of an orthotic to control foot motion. This shoe design doesn’t stabilize the foot based on its slip on style and its inability to incorporate the use of an orthotic.

Despite all of the style and practicality of the loafer, it won’t be the shoe your health provider recommends if you are actively being treated for a lower extremity condition. If you have loafers in the closet or you have one that you are eyeing for purchase don’t despair. Many lower extremity healthcare conditions are self limited and won’t require long term shoeware changes.