How do you care for your feet?
- Are they constantly in heeled shoes? Even most running shoes have a "heel".
- Are you losing muscle in your feet by wearing rigid based shoes?
- Are they jammed into shoes with tapered toe boxes?
- Are they always nice and snug in your socks and shoes?
- Are they working extra hard in your flip flops?
High Heels, the Pros & Cons:
- They look great!
- They change your posture from foot to head
- They change the functionality of your feet
- They change the functionality of your ankle, calf & shin muscles
- They shorten and tighten your Achilles tendon
- They can damage knees
- They can damage hips
- They can cause plantar fasciitis
- They can cause bunions & corns
Katy Bowman, a biomechanical engineer with a degree in Kineseology & Biomechanics drew this picture giving us a great visual what happens when we wear shoes with even a short heel.
Heeled shoes, including running shoes with a slight heel, create issues in your feet by: destabilizing the arch of your foot, creating excessive pressure on the ball of your foot and ultimately resulting in injuries such as ankle sprain, bunions, plantar fasciitis and more.
Most of us wear heeled shoes. I'll admit it, I still wear heels sometimes! Even most running shoes have an elevated heel.
What about those shoes we are told to wear if we're on our feet for a long time? They all have a heel! Have you been sold on the benefit of shoes like clogs such as Dansko's? Read this article and you will most likely rethink your shoe of choice for long hours of standing or walking. Container Store friends, take heed! (Click here for more about the downfalls of clogs).
Robyn Hughes with Natural Footgear says studies show: "Clogs, like other types of conventional footwear, cause or contribute to many foot and toe problems, including neuromas, plantar fasciosis, and ingrown toenails. And they do this because they place your feet and toes in unnatural, compromised positions for many hours at a time. It’s only by examining the harmful design features included in most clogs, though, that you’ll get a better sense of how clogs actually impair foot health and cause problems."
Rigid Motion Control Shoes & Atrophy
These shoes quite often do more harm than good. Our feet were designed to feel the ground and move according to what is under us. A rigid sold acts like a cast for our feet and compromises the form of our foot. Have you ever been in a cast or seen the atrophy that takes place after someone you know was in a cast? Rigid shoes will cause atrophy in your feet.
Benno Nigg, PhD and author of The Biomechanics of Running Shoes is one of the people credited with creating the original concept and design of motion controlled running shoes has done an about face when it comes to motion control shoes. Dr. Nigg says, “It’s important to realize that modern running shoes, even the ones equipped with ‘anti-pronation’ features actually cause pronation—they don’t control it. A runner, male or female, who pronates about eight degrees while running barefoot, will often pronate about 20 degrees while wearing ‘anti-pronation’ running shoes.”
Smothering Toes in Tapered Shoes
Here's an analogy for you: What if we kept our hands in mittens...nice snug mittens...most of the time, from birth until now? Our fingers would be stiff, closer together and not nearly as functional. Well, the same goes for our feet. Our toes need wiggle room! Our toes need breathing room! Without space to function they will become dysfunctional.
Shoes with a tight/tapering toe box (any shoe where the tip of the shoe is closer together than the area just before the toes), cause things like calluses, bunions, corns and worse. Look at these baby toes vs. adult toes. The adult wasn't born with toes like this, the toe position was caused by many years of improper foot wear and potentially other postural issues. Tight socks without any toe separation can have the same effect.
A year ago a toe on my right foot, was talking to me! A big ball had formed on the bottom of my middle toe and it hurt! It hurt wearing cute shoes (aka heels), it hurt wearing a pair of slippers, it hurt wearing my toasty warm socks and it hurt with loafers. However, it didn't hurt as much when I was barefoot. Hmm.
I saw some friends at an Egoscue clinic wearing Injinji toe socks and thought they looked a bit silly. But I figured if the posture guys are wearing them I'm going to give it a try. A year later and many days of doing corrective exercises and wearing toe socks, the big ball has shrunk and I can wear cute shoes without pain! However, I opt for the toe socks as often as possible! I've also replaced old shoes with a tapered toe box with shoes offering a wide toe box. I also do daily exercises that help correct the muscle memory throughout my body which has had a very positive effect on my feet!
Are Flip Flops a Flop?
I LOVE flip flops and have been a big Reef's fan for a long time. If you askedyear ago I would've said I'd wear them all day every day if I could...then I visited Eric Mundt, a Muscle Activation Techniques Practitioner and Physical Therapist. Eric said flip flops are just about the worst thing you can wear for your feet, knees and back. We "discussed" this and he finally said, "if you want your back to get better, get rid of the flip flops". I acquiesced. I did more research and learned a lot more about feet, shoes and healing my body from the feet up! I found out that Eric is right.
Katy Bowman, Bio-mechanical Engineer, created a perfect picture of what happens to your foot when you walk in flip flops. She says, "The “grip” to keep footwear on, curls some toe bones up and some down, drives the end of some bones into the ground creating higher-than-normal pressure (hello fracture!) and drives the ends of some bones up into the top of the shoe (corn, calluses). I won’t even mention the the tension down the front of the leg..."
Flip flop wearers have a greater chance of getting, or increasing hammertoe. Hammertoe is when the knuckles of your toes bend constantly, like a learned position of the toe. We weren't designed that way, look at this picture of a babies foot and of a grown woman's foot. Hammertoe is not typically hereditary, it is compensation for a dysfunctional foot. Plantar fasciitis is also often a result of too much flip flop wearing.
Solutions: Footwear & Exercises
Can you fix your feet even if you've had poor walking patterns, poor posture and/or worn the wrong shoes? The answer is yes! We are going to break this down into 2 categories; footwear & exercises.
What you put on your feet makes a difference. Here are some of the important specs:
- Wider toe box shoes, don't put your toes in something tight
- Flexible base, motion control & stability shoes can often make your issues worse (see below)
- No heel, as you saw above, we were designed to stand on flat feet, not heel raised feet
- Toe socks, like Injinji, are great and will help keep your toes separated, don't wear tight or snug socks
- My Happy Feet socks help spread the toes and are worn around the house or to bed at night
- GO BAREFOOT AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE!
Exercises to Help Relieve Foot Pain:
These exercises are not provided as medical advice, you should always check with your health care practitioner before starting any new exercises.
Try these exercises everyday for a couple of weeks and let me know how you feel by emailing me at info@PainFreeDenver.com. As noted above these exercises are not medical advice and may not help everyone with foot and/or ankle pain. If you try these and still experience pain and discomfort contact me to set up your postural evaluation.
This exercise is called Supine Foot Circles and Point & Flex. The point of this exercise is to promote proper function of the lower leg muscles and encourage stabilization of the hip joint on the same leg. Be sure to always do the same exercise and reps for each leg as our goal is to re-introduce bilateral balance.
- Lie on your back with one leg extended and the other leg bent and pulled up toward your chest
- Clasp your hands behind the bent knee
- Keep the foot on the floor pointed straight up toward the ceiling and your thigh muscles tight
- Circle the lifted foot one way for the indicated number or repetitions, then reverse direction for the same number of reps
- Make sure the knee stays absolutely still with movement coming from the ankle and not the knee
- For the point/flexes, bring the toes back toward the shin to flex, then reverse the direction to point the foot forward for the indicated number of reps
- Switch legs and repeat
This exercise is called supine calf & hamstring stretch and its purpose is to promote unilateral lumbar engagement with emphasis on using pelvic flexors which helps reestablish linkage between feet and hips.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent
- Position 1:
- Take a strap or belt and loop it under the ball of one foot
- Firmly holding the ends of the strap, straighten that leg and PULL YOUR TOES DOWN toward your hips to feel a stretch in the calf or back of your lower leg
- The straight leg should be lined up with the bent knee.
- Keep your thigh/quad tight and toes pulled back
- Your upper body should be relaxed throughout the e-cise, shoulders back on the floor
- Hold 30 to 60 seconds
- Position 2:
- Loop the strap under the heel of the straight leg
- Pull back on the strap so your leg points towards the ceiling, you will feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Keep your thigh tight and TOES RELAXED.
- Do NOT let the hip lift up off the floor
- Hold 30 to 60 seconds
- Switch legs and repeat both positions
This exercise is called Static Extension Position. The purpose of the ecise is to reduce rotation in the hips and promote spinal extension.
- Start down on the floor on your hands and knees with your major joints aligned (i.e. shoulders directly above elbows and wrists, hips directly above knees)
- Hands should be placed shoulder width apart, palms flat with fingers pointed straight ahead
- Arms must remain straight, elbows locked
- Walk your hands about 6 inches forward and then move your upper body forward so that your shoulders are again above your hands but now your hips are forward of your knees about 6 inches
- Relax your low back allowing it to arch with the movement coming from the tilt of your pelvis
- Collapse your shoulder blades together and drop your head down
- Your shoulders should be directly above your hands (you can use fists or go to elbows if your wrists bother you in this ecise)
- If your low back begins to hurt, back your hips up toward your knees; this will make the exercise a bit easier
- Hold for 1 to 2 minutes.
I hope this information has been as educational and helpful to you as it has to me over the past few years. Here are a number of links to some of the articles I read and studied including a guide to recommended footwear.
- Dr Ray McClannahan of Northwest Foot & Ankle in Portland, Oregon, a podiatrist for over 17 years, has learned that most foot problems can be corrected by restoring natural foot function. You can read all about foot pain, solutions and more at
- Injinji Socks are great every day socks to help keeps those toes separated & functional
- Katy Bowman's Winter & Summer Shoe Lists: Summer & Winter
- My Happy Feet socks are a great way to begin to reintroduce foot & toe functionality
Postural Evaluation & Wellness Workshop
If you have foot pain, ankle pain or knee pain and this information made sense to you call or email to set up your Postural Evaluation and lets get to the root of your postural and/or pain issue!
You can also host or attend a Wellness Workshop.The workshops are informative and interactive, and will explore the role of posture and motion and the importance of understanding both in relation to physical limitations and pain, whether occasional or chronic. I will share my knowledge of how poor posture and lack of motion are at the root of most of our physical pain and limitations. I will also explain how people can improve their overall well being through this natural approach to pain relief by teaching them how to train their body to function as it was intended. We will also go through a few great exercises to help get extension back into your spine, and reduce tightness in your hips. You will leave with a 5 minute menu of exercises designed to help you feel better physically & mentally!
I am hosting a Wellness Workshop on Chronic Pain at the Lone Tree Hub on Wednesday August 23rd a 12:30 pm. If you'd like to join us please click here.