What’s on your foot?? And no, I’m not talking about the fungus or overgrown toenail that you’ve been dealing with recently. I mean what kind of shoes are you wearing? This unsuspecting question is actually paramount to most people’s overall health. Let me get straight to the point: your shoes are killing your foot health. The modern shoe, whether it be a gym shoe, dress shoe or high heel, is causing destruction in your lower body. Don’t believe me? Take off your shoe and sock and look at your foot. Are your toes the widest part of your foot? If they are then you are in the minority. Otherwise, like the rest of us, your toes are not the widest part of your foot. This brings me to my first point.
Walk like a baby
When you are born your toes are the widest part of your foot, and almost instantly we start to cram our feet (or get our feet crammed) into shoes that are too narrow. This, in turn, narrows our toes which can destabilize our foot/feet and lead to poor balance and agility. Along with a loss of coordination, other problems can arise such as hammer toe, bunions, or even bone spurs. Of course some shoes are worse than others (looking at you high heels), but most modern day footwear doesn’t have a toe box that is wide enough to accommodate the ideal shape of a foot for optimum balance, agility and strength.
Feel the connection
While the narrowing of your foot can be ugly and downright painful it’s not the only way that the Reeboks or Nikes you have on are wreaking havoc on your poor foot. The bottom of your foot, much like the tips of your fingers, have a ton of neurological connections relaying signals to your brain. By wearing big padded shoes you are blunting this connection and in turn walking down an unbalanced path, literally. By using the correct pair of shoes(more on that later) or, even better, walking barefoot, you allow your foot to feel the terrain it’s walking on. Your toes will start to spread out, strength and balance will start to develop, and your overall lower body health will improve because the bottom of your foot is in constant communication with your brain. The more detailed the signals going from foot to gray matter, the better those feet of yours will perform. The only thing left is learning how to walk properly.
Close that gait!
The last correction that most people need to make is their gait. For those unaware of this term, gait simply means the way in which you walk. It’s the movement pattern of your legs and feet as you walk, jog or run. For thousands of years human-beings walked with bare feet and/or in a zero drop shoe(the sole is the same height from heel to toe). Because of this, we walked with a more flat-footed gait as opposed to the more modern heel to toe roll. This midsole-style of walking helps to promote a healthier foot by distributing your weight more evenly throughout your foot, unlike the heel roll where all your weight is being brought down on one small piece of bone. Landing midsole also allows your arch to form its natural arc that can negate the effects of having an insole with a high arch and all the problems that can be caused from it.
So what’s the solution?
The solution is simple in theory but can have its difficulties in execution. You need to walk barefoot more often and/or get yourself a pair of minimalist shoes. It’s really that simple and that complicated. For the average person there is going to be an adjustment period, so make sure to start slowly by walking around for a few minutes at a time, whether barefoot or in a minimalist pair of shoes. Everyone is different so you will need to gauge your progress based on how you feel. There are some people who will have a shorter adjustment period than others.
There are many great brands of minimalist shoes out there: Xero and Vivo Barefoot just to name a couple. Poke around and see what you can find, and ultimately remember that no one is the same. What works for me may not work for the next person and that’s OK. You need to find the shoe that fits you, literally. Be happy and healthy!!