Foot health is integral to the health of the rest of your joints. If the biomechanics of your foot and ankle is not proper, it will wear down your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and spine, causing a multitude of other issues.
High heels are detrimental to your body. They cause some muscles to overwork and others to shut down. They also put unnecessary pressure on joints in your feet and cause abnormal mechanics of the foot and ankle, knees, and hips when walking. If you find it necessary to wear heals, try to keep them less than 2 inches tall, stand as little as possible in them, and make sure you stretch out your calves and strengthen your foot and ankle muscles regularly.
Flip flops can be just as bad as high heels. We need our big toe to go into extension at the toe off phase of walking for something called the windlass system to work properly. When wearing flip flops, we need to grab with our toes to keep them on. This does not allow the windlass to work properly, putting unnecessary strain on the plantar fascia, Achilles tendon, and up the posterior chain to the gluteal region. In some circumstances flip flops can be necessary, such as when showering in public places, but if you can otherwise avoid them, do so.
Now, getting to running shoes. Running shoes are made with a significant amount of cushion and some sort of posting to support a person’s pronation or overpronation. Studies the past several years have looked at the difference between traditional running shoes and minimalist or barefoot running shoes. They have found that traditional running shoes cause an increased and abnormal heel strike as well as increased forces through the leg, without actually changing the motion in the knee or hip as previously thought. With minimalist or barefoot running, the foot lands more midfoot or forefoot, causing shorter stride length, but decreased forces through the legs. If you are considering transitioning to barefoot or minimalist shoes, do so gradually. They will make the small muscles in your foot and lower leg work harder than they are used to, causing quicker fatigue and increased soreness. Long term, you should notice a significant improvement in strength and stability in your foot and ankle.
Flat shoes are the ideal shoes to wear on a regular basis. Try to find shoes that have less than 1/2″ difference in height between the heel and forefoot of the shoe. Anything taller can put undo stress on your muscles, ligaments, and tendons. In an ideal world, we could be barefoot at all times, keeping our feet both strong and mobile.
Since we can’t be barefoot at all times, try to take a day to be barefoot all day (or at least most of the day when not doing errands). Let’s try for a Barefoot Saturday!
Ready to Run by Kelly Starrett