I’m a sucker for funky, crazy shoes. I used to wear high ones, bright ones, sparkled wedged ones! Hoooo baby, they looked goooooood! But I tell you what, they were the first thing that got kicked off after a night out and sometimes they didn’t last that long. Heck, my satin flower pastel pinks got dumped on the dance floor at my very own wedding. Why? Quite frankly, barefoot for any occasion feels so much better. Crazy shoes hurt! And they don’t just hurt your feet. Squishing your toes and walking on tiptoes affects your ankles, your knees, your hips, your pelvis and guess what is attached to that bowl of goodies? Yep, your pelvic floor, your abdominals, your back muscles, your ribs, your diaphragm, your shoulders……ahhhhhh wholebody drama!
So, what exactly is going on here? And don’t think you are getting away with it if you just wear flats or trainers there’s so much more to a shoe than you realise. So lets dive in and see what your shoes are doing to you and the rest of your body.
First of all we need to know our shoes. Let’s look at the different bits…
- The heel
- The sole
- The toe box
- The toe lift
- The security
Most people know where the heel of a shoe is but it is confused what is classed as a heel. It’s simple a positive heel is any height to the back of the heel. This means that even your workout trainer can be classed as a high heel!
Why is the heel important? Well, if you have any heel on your shoe it is simply impossible to stand with good alignment. Check out this picture from …….
You can see that to stand up straight whilst wearing a positive heel our muscles will have to make some serious adjustments to get upright.
So, the best type of heel to look out for is a zero drop shoe. This means that the front of the shoe is the same height as the back of the shoe. Woah, there now before you run off to grab your level height platforms, keep reading.
The sole of the shoe is equally important. Remember that the foot has 26 bones, 33 joints and over a 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons. In fact the foot has 25% of the bones in the human body. Wowza! Your foot is designed with some serious mechanics. With all of this going on our foot should be able to undulate with whatever terrain it comes across and you should be able to move your toes…independently of each other. Go on try it!
Anyway, most shoes have an inflexible sole. Imagine placing a glove onyour hand that didn’t allow your fingers to move. Like a concrete mitten. You’d think that was bonkers wouldn’t you? But you do it to your feet. Putting your foot into a shoe with an inflexible sole shuts down all the movement that your foot is capable of. This in turn shuts down all the sensory information that your foot normally gathers. Our muscles deteriorate, our feet become stiff and information about balance and the surface we walk on becomes limited.
So the best footwear involves a sole that is flexible and thin. It allows the foot to move with the terrain and feel what is beneath. Our muscles and toes can move freely stimulating the mind, our sensory receptors and improve alignment.
So those platforms, they may be zero drop but you can’t squish or bend them – move away.
THE TOE BOX
The toe box is the bit of the shoe that the widest part of your foot has to fit in. The widest part of your foot should be your toes. Yes, really it is! But often we squash our feet into shoes where the toe box is narrower than the rest of the shoe. Your toes in a shoe should be able to spread out and have gaps between each other. Try this, stand barefoot on a piece of paper and draw around your foot. Now get your shoe and place it over your drawing. Does your foot fit into this?
If you have a pointy pair of shoes and you are nodding “yes”! my feet do fit! Then look at the shape of your foot. Is your foot foot shaped or pointy shoe shaped?
So, when looking for good footwear the toe box should allow your toes to spread out and be the widest part of the foot.
This is the front part of the shoe where your toes live. And quite often this part lifts up from the floor meaning that your toes cannot do their job properly during normal walking gait. Which can cause all sorts of muscle adaptations. Your toes should be able to stay in contact with the ground not forced to stick up in the air. With this and the positive heel we end up with a lot of pressure on the ball of the foot which can end in pain. In addition, with the toe spring and a narrow toe box our toes can become deformed. Yikes!
I’m not talking about if you lock up your Louboutins I’m talking about how secure is your shoe on your foot?
I’m sorry if most of you thought you’d cracked the shoe thing with a flip flop. Wide toe box, thin and flexible sole and mostly zero drop. But the flip flop has one big bad negative and that’s how secure it is on your foot. As you walk your toes need to scrunch up to keep them on, your stride needs to shorten and this can cause pain in the heel and across the bottom of your foot which is not fun. You can change this up by making sure there is a strap on your flip flop that keeps the thing securely on your foot so that your toes can do their normal thing during foot strike.
So when choosing footwear, make sure that the thing is secure on your foot. This isn’t just flip flops and other sandals but watch out for slip on boots like ugg styles. Sometimes your biomechanics feels that the boot is not secure so the toes scrunch causing problems.
CHECK YOUR SHOES
So, now that you are a shoe whisperer go and have a look at your shoes. See which ones meet all, some, one or none of the above criteria. How about drawing around your feet on a piece of paper and then see if your paper foot matches the outline of your actual shoes. Fun eh?
If it turns out your wardrobe is a shoe criteria disaster then this could be the starting point of how you can get out of back ,hip, knee, ankle pain or start to heal (ooooo, that’s a pun – yes?) your pelvic floor, close your diastasis and move better in general.
I talk about alignment and how shoes can affect this in all my courses. IT’s not just about the feet, it’s a whole body thing so if you’ve been wearing standard shoes all of your life then the rest of your body may need some TLC. Why not sign up to one of my courses to see how.