Feet....For thought

Following on from our previous post regarding feet and orthotics, I thought we'd continue on the feet theme and discuss the issue of feet and our considerations for footwear.

***Disclaimer*** I understand the preference/functionality for specific footwear for activities such as weightlifting/ballet/dancing, or necessities such as steel cap boots for work safety. What I am referring to is the general day to day use of  footwear.

Generally when clients ask for advice regarding footwear, I have 3 main criteria. Firstly, the shoe should be flat or zero drop i.e no difference in height from heel to toe. Secondly, the shoe should have a wide toe box. This would allow the foot to have its natural foot shape in the shoe. Lastly, the shoe should be flexible, and allow natural movement of the foot; the same way your feet would behave if it were barefoot. Let me elaborate.

1. Flat/Zero-drop

This picture sums it up nicely. Picture A shows us what the body looks like when we stand barefoot/flat on the ground. The spine is aligned all the way through our hips, knees and ankles. Picture B shows us what happens when we wear heels, or any sort of lift in our shoes. Because of the lift in our shoe, our alignment is tipped forward, causing our centre of gravity to be pushed forward. Therefore, picture C shows us what happens when we have to correct and compensate to restore our alignment with our centre of gravity again. What happens is that our calves have to shorten, our centre of gravity gets shifted behind our knees, we get pushed into anterior pelvic tilt, potentially causing increased pressure in our lower back as well.

2. Wide toe box

This is a picture of my daughter's shoes. Look at how wide they are especially around the toe region and look at how flat and "unsupported" they are, and look at how flexible they are.

Have a look at your shoes again. Work shoes, casual shoes, training shoes. Look at how the toe box of your shoe is shaped. Is it wide enough to accommodate your toes, or are you actually squeezing them together?

Think about this for a moment. What are the similarities of babies crawling, a gymnast doing a cartwheel, or someone doing a handstand push up? Their hands are splayed wide for better balance, stability, and awareness! 

So, if our shoes are squeezing our toes together, are we then actually depriving our brain, and by extension our body, the optimal sensations and feedback we get from our feet?

Here's a good way to gauge if your shoes might actually be squeezing or compressing your toes and feet. Take your insole out of your shoe and trace it out on a piece of paper. If you can't take our your insole then just trace the outline of your shoe. Then stand on the outline. If your feet sit comfortably in the outline, congratulations, your feet do actually love you for it. If your toes are peeking outside the lines of the outline, erm, just maybe, your toes are asking for a bit of breathing room? 

3. Flexible

Have a look once again at the picture of my daughter's shoe and how flexible the shoe is, how it bends and folds.

Now think about the shoes these days with the fancy air and gel technology, motion control, arch support...you get the drift. I wonder why our innocent vulnerable babies require so much less support than adults. Shouldn't it be the other way round that as we get older and supposedly stronger, that we require less support?

Now go grab your running shoes/trainers and give them a nice bend. Can your shoes fold all the way like the pictures above? I'll wager that for 3/4 of the people reading this article, your shoe can only bend through the toe region, rather than right through the whole foot. I'm not going to put up any pictures in case I offend companies/loyal customers, but think about how stiff or how flexible your shoe is, and how it is potentially causing you to move unnaturally. 

 

These are a few considerations we think are important in choosing footwear for our general foot health. Once again, the better our foundation, the more stable our house (our body) will be.

A wise man once said, focus on the solution, not the problem. In the following few posts, I will be sharing on a few potential solutions to the issues described above, namely feet problems, and footwear solutions.

As always, thanks for reading!