By Zach Columbia. B.S. NASM
Remember when Nike came out with the Nike Shox line? I was totally in love with those shoes as a teenager. I thought they were the coolest. I even had Nike Shox baseball cleats that I was positive helped to improve my game. So why have I decided to share my love for these shoes with you? The heel part of the Nike Shox varied in height, but were typically around 25mm, while the toe was about 3-5mm. That’s a whopping 20mm heel to toe drop. In other words, I spent my teenage years walking around in high heels.
By now you’re thinking cool story bro and getting ready to move on, but before you decide to X out of this article and check your Facebook, here’s why I’m sharing my awesome taste in fashion with you… In our society, people’s feet are jacked up, literally. Everyone is walking around in high heels, even if they’re disguised as something as awesome and fashionable as Nike Shox. Walking around in these shoes for years, wreaked havoc on my hips, lower back, knees, ankles, and feet. So, if you’re suffering from pain or dysfunction in any of these areas, you might want to pay attention.
Have you ever seen a baby the first time they try to walk in shoes? Pretty cute right? But not at all natural. You probably didn’t pay that close attention to how their gait changed compared to when they walk barefoot. Hurry up and go put shoes on your baby and watch them walk! If you don’t have a baby, go borrow someone else’s… I’m sure nobody will mind. It will look similar to your grandma with a hip replacement trying to go up stairs. The hip will first open, the foot will turn out, the knee will bend less, and the leg will swing out instead of moving straight forward. The heel will strike the ground first and at an unnatural angle, also known as heel striking.
Now your gait pattern may not be as bad a baby trying to learn how to walk, or a little old lady with a bionic hip, but the moral of the story here is that the wrong pair of shoes will cause you to press off the foot in a bad position and land in a bad position. This gait dysfunction can lead to hip pain, back pain, knee pain, ankle pain, plantar fascia pain, heel pain, etc… Who knew that the reason your grandma needed that hip replacement in the first place was because she’s been wearing the wrong pair of shoes her whole life.
Natural gait is biomechanically impossible for any shoe-wearing person,” wrote Dr. William A. Rossi in a 1999 article in Podiatry Management. That was in 1999. Boy do we take a long time to catch on or what? In the last several years, you’ve probably heard about the perfect posture of cultures that don’t wear shoes. Walking with an elevated heel requires an anterior pelvic tilt in order to balance, which explains why cultures that don’t wear shoes have the proper J shaped spine as opposed to an S shaped spine we see in our society today.
Children begin to develop stiff arches around age 6. Up until that point the arch is soft and able to be flattened and flexed. Unrelated obviously, is that children also begin wearing shoes and sitting at a desk all day every day around ages 5-6. Meaning, we’re causing our children to have poor posture and poor movement patterning during their developmental years.
Here are the benefits of not wearing shoes:
- Going barefoot reduces the risk of injury.
- Ankle and knee pain can be caused by the gait shoes create. Going barefoot can eliminate this pain.
- Going barefoot strengthens the arch, but also keeps it more flexible.
- Barefoot walking leads to mid-foot striking instead of heel striking, which causes bone spurs and plantar fasciitis.
- Eliminating the cushion and heel of shoes stretches and lengthens the calf and Achilles tendon.
Okay, I think you get it. Shoes are bad, barefoot is better, but no shoes, no shirt, no service. We have to wear shoes so here’s the solution:
- Don’t be too aggressive. Minimalist shoes are great, but if you’re like me and you’ve been wearing cushioned shoes your whole life, switching to a minimalist shoe will be super painful. Start with a training shoe that has a 4mm heel to toe drop. This will take a little time to get used to, but won’t make you regret spending $100 on a pair of shoes that are too painful to wear.
- Don’t wear dress shoes. Yes, I understand you’re a big deal. Do some research, you can find flat shoes that are fancy and will perfectly acceptable in the corporate world.
- Don’t wear flip flops. This is a whole article in and of itself. Long story short, flip flops will cause you to curl your toes when you walk, which is worse than shoes.
- Go barefoot as often as you can. Lose your shoes as soon as you get home. Walk the dog barefoot. Take the kids to the park, take of your shoes, (and theirs) and run around.
Reverse the effects of bad shoes with the right fitness program! Contact us today to learn how we can help!
Dr. Rossi A. William Author. Podiatry Management. 1999
2014. Web. http://wellnessmama.com/8264/healthy-shoes/