Have you ever come home from work, kicked off your shoes and felt your feet throb as if you just finished a marathon? Unfortunately, for many people this is a common experience.
Consider how often you think about the health of your feet. If they aren’t in pain, probably not often. Most people only think about their feet when they’re buying shoes or getting a pedicure, and in both instances it’s about how they look, not how they function.
Did you know that 25% of the bones in your body are in your feet? Each foot also has 33 joints, over 100 muscles, and 3 arches. These components work together to support your body weight and provide you with the basics for movement such as walking, running, climbing, and dancing.
What goes wrong?
When working properly, your feet have the capacity for tremendous strength, endurance, flexibility, and the sensitivity to adjust to varying terrain as you walk. After a couple decades of abuse, your feet start to pay the price.
We mistreat our feet by sticking them into shoes that stop them from functioning properly. Shoes that taper at the front and squeeze your toes together instead of allowing them to splay out and interact with the ground.
The artificial arch in your shoe takes over for the natural arch of your foot, not allowing it to get the needed stress it requires to remain strong. Most shoes also have an elevated heel to provide cushion as you walk.
The elevated heel puts your calves into contraction shortening your calf muscles and tendons. The higher the heel, the further it puts your knees and hips into extension, forcing you to hyperextend your lower back or fall face forward.
Most shoes are rigid and do not have any bend or twist flexibility, which removes the foot’s natural function of interpreting and responding to the ground.
Why does this matter?
Wearing shoes may be an essential part of modern life, but they are also part of the problem. Many people are suffering with pain in their muscles and joints due to self-created dysfunction.
If your feet aren’t moving well, the dysfunction will travel up your legs affecting your knees, hips and lower back. It will affect how you squat, swing a golf club, baseball bat, throw a ball, and lift and carry a baby.
Your feet are your foundation of strength and movement. They connect you to the Earth and help you feel centered and grounded. The condition of your feet will affect your overall health. Once the feet start to experience pain it won’t be long before an active person finds themselves stuck on the couch.
Now I am not recommending that you show up to work tomorrow without shoes. Depending on where you live and where you work, shoes may be a necessity.
Shoes protect our feet from sharp objects and other gross things that may be on the ground. Shoes are also part of our culturally accepted dress code- No shoes, No shirt, No service.
Instead of giving up shoes, make a couple of small changes to improve the health of your feet. When it comes to shoes choose a pair that is light on your feet, loose enough for your toes to wiggle, and flat.
If you must wear heels, choose a low heel and take them off throughout the day to give your body a break. High heels cause dysfunction to your whole body not just your feet. They lock your legs and place strain on your hips and lower back.
In addition to choosing the right pair of shoes, give your feet some much needed exercise. You can start by simply kicking off your shoes and going barefoot around the house. Look for other barefoot opportunities such as walking in the park, watering the lawn and gardening.
Take care of your feet, the rest of your body will be thankful.