Picture this, you come home from work one day and notice something is wrong with your house (or for my urbanite friends, your condo complex). The west facing wall is displaying something between a kickstand and a drunken 3am lean to the side from the top down. Your first inclination is to call a contractor or some other specialist that could enlighten you as to what the problem is, but you already know what the problem is, your house is falling over. Quickly, in your knee-jerk reaction, you slap a few wooden planks down to help support it from the ground, but there’s a much bigger problem that you can’t see. Like a pair of chunky running shoes that “corrects” for an over-pronated foot or lack of arch, these wooden planks are cheap “patchwork” for a much bigger issue, foundation. Of course, the cheaper and more broadly prescribed remedy for this issue is different shoes. But what happens to those wooden planks, and more importantly, your house, when the big storm hits and that patchwork can no longer hold? Eventually, your body’s weaknesses will present themselves in a major way, probably somewhere other than your feet, and counting on an inanimate piece of rubber and plastic is hardly a good solution. Unfortunately, for the population that enjoys doing less for more, the markedly more efficacious solution requires far more effort than buying the hottest pair of running shoes.
The Big Question
One of the biggest questions I get on a regular basis, especially in my opportunities with folks in regards to foot/ankle health, is “what kind of shoe is best?”. Firstly, there is no “best” shoe for anyone as everyone’s feet are subject to any number of environmental influences throughout their life, in addition to genetic predisposition. Secondly, what are you wearing the shoe for in the first place? Are you walking to work every day in the concrete jungle? Are you an avid trail runner? Or are you just looking for something to wear while in the gym? The moment you first laced up a pair of shoes, you began deconditioning the small muscles in your feet. With the exception of a few types of shoes, most have built-in arch support, and the shoe acts on the muscles in the feet and legs like a chair acts on the muscles in the hips. Muscles tend to work (or not work) out of necessity, so just like sitting all day decreases the need for muscles that help you stand/walk, wearing shoes decreases the need for adequately functioning muscles in your feet and lower legs. For more information on foot health, make sure to check out my mentor in lower extremity biomechanics, Dr. Emily Splichal of New York City, and her website http://evidencebasedfitnessacademy.com/
Shoes Are a Necessity in Today’s World
I’m not saying ditch every pair of shoes you own and run around town barefoot, because not only will you be denied entrance into every establishment, but you could severely hurt yourself. This whole article, and the point of this blog in general, is to instill an anti- knee-jerk reaction, anti-sensational fitness fad and anti-polarizing viewpoint in anyone pondering the importance of overall wellness and how to get there. Research and getting to know your body are the keys to discovering that there is no “one size fits all” approach to anything. Whether it be shoe type, orthotics, workout intensity, food intake, or even political view, you don’t need to always be 100% with/without or for/against. Take the time to understand your foot type, desired activity level, and what kind of shoe might best suit your needs.
The Bottom Line, If the Shoe Fits
Stop blaming your pain on the wrong shoes, and take charge of why you thought you needed those shoes in the first place. Be an educated consumer and if you lack the resources or knowledge to properly evaluate your footwear needs, then do some research! The bottom line is that we all need to be training our foot musculature, in addition to the hips/core far more than we currently are. This can be done in the comfort of your own home by simply losing the shoes and socks and walking around for short periods of time. As you would train any other muscle group, gradually increase the time spent barefoot, as too much too soon may be painful. I’d be more than happy to help you understand your feet/ankles, and what shoe might be appropriate for your desired fitness endeavors. Let me give you a hint, though, it will never be flip-flops! Whether it be bunions, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendon pain, or shin splints, many disorders of the lower extremity can be traced back to an underlying weakness or overuse. If running has been gaining in popularity since the 1970’s, and shoe design has been “improving” ever since, shouldn’t running-related injuries be going down? Its not a “shoe” problem, its a “you” problem.
Yours in Wellness,
Prevention over Treatment