What the Foot!?
Oftentimes the discussion of foot wear comes up in my office. I wanted to take some time to highlight considerations for what you put on your feet. Check out this quick article!
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE... When considering footwear, 1 key ingredient is variety. You should have a cadre of different shoes in your arsenal for the activities you love. Having a variety of footwear lowered injury risks in runners by 66% in one study. The other key ingredient is that you aren't a one trick pony, you want to enjoy a variety of activities. If you love hiking, you should also consider having a side hustle like cycling, weight training, pilates or yoga. And, if you can do those other activities barefoot then even better, as it'll allow your foot to get stronger too! Variety in all activities yields longer standing enjoyment and reduces injury risks as well. Trying to move in different ways will also improve balance and coordination which can reduce the risk of falling. WHAT YOUR FEET WANT... As someone concerned with muscles and making YOU more resilient what I can tell you is that we want to find footwear that lets our foot be a foot! But what does that even mean!? Well, our foot was designed to move dynamically through our gait cycle. It needs to be able to supinate (twist outwards), pronate (twist inwards), flex up and flex down, and while the forefoot moves one way the rear foot has to move another direction to compensate and create more force or stability. Our foot really needs to move a lot to provide stability and feedback to our body so other muscles know when to fire. If our footwear gets in the way of that by being restrictive, tight, rigid or hyper-cushioned we lose some options for our feet. By the way, did you know that I can help reprogram your weak feet & ankles!? Using credentials that I obtained through Muscle Activation Techniques I can activate all 30 muscles in your feet and ankle, improving rigidity, stability and strength in as little as 1-2 sessions! I've used these techniques to help clients hike, run and walk with improved performance on many occasions! GIMME SOME POINTERS! By now you might be saying, "Okay, seriously what tips on footwear do you have!?" I got you! Here are the top 5 things we should all be looking for with our footwear:
Has a wide toe box area. The toe box is where our toes reside in the shoe. Having a wider toe box allows our toes to "splay" or spread out. This is a natural occurrence when we stand over our feet or stand on 1 foot offering us more balance. This feature will also help you strengthen your arch too.
Has the ability to flex upwards. If we can take the forefoot of the shoe and roll it up towards the rear of the shoe then that's a good sign this shoe isn't too rigid. That feature will let our foot flex upwards like when our leg is behind us in extension during our gait.
Has the ability to twist. Having a shoe that slightly allows us to twist it when holding the front and rear of the shoe (like ringing out a towel) also lets our foot go into supination and pronation more effectively, which is a normal occurrence in our gait cycle.
Has the ability to micro-adjust the lacing system. This seems logical, but our feet dimensions are so different, and the footwear makers are aware of that, but sometimes they make mistakes. We should always test the lacing system and make sure we have enough material to securely lock in our foot or make micro-adjustments on the fly.
It is not too heavy. The heavier our shoes get the more we notice them. Our hips are actually the muscles that move our legs forward and backward in the gait cycle. So if they're swinging really heavy shoes to and fro that'll be more work for our hips and trunk to manage, and that'll likely make us sore in some weird places. Heavy is a relative term, so try on a few pairs of shoes and walk around in them while at the store.
BONUS: Heel to Toe Offset is Minimal. The heel to toe offset is the incline of the shoe from back to front. If our shoe features a larger heel to toe drop (meaning the heel is higher off the ground and the toe box area is closer to the ground) then the shoe maker is placing a larger emphasis on our quadriceps and hip flexors to be more involved in our gait cycle. This reduces the effectiveness of our calves, hamstrings and glutes and can make our feet weaker over time. We should try to find shoes with a minimal difference from heel to toe, somewhere between 0mm to 10mm, you can usually ask the store clerk or find it online if you prefer to shop there.
I'M NOT READY FOR THAT, WHAT SHOULD I DO? Now, let's say we're worried about switching to more efficient footwear. Well there's no harm in trying to strengthen our own feet & ankles! I'll show you my top 5 moves for strengthening the feet & ankles in a video below. And if you want, we can also schedule a consultation looking over your foot & ankle strength.