I keep picking on running shoes, and, when possible, my clients and I walk and train barefoot. We take off our running shoes and go barefoot for some really good reasons. These are just a few of them:
There is a network of nerves on the bottom of your feet which sent information to the brain about the ground underneath your feet: . This triggers reflexes that help you avoid injuries when you sense something sharp or uneven. The thick soles of your running shoes limit sensory perception, and limit the key reflexes your body is intelligently equipped with to avoid injury, whether skeletal or muscular.
Flat foot essentially means the arch of the foot doesn’t develop properly or it collapses. This can lead to other injuries.
There are people who are genetically predisposed to getting flat feet, but in many, many cases the problem is caused my weak foot muscles. These muscles help create and maintain the shape of the arch. Like any other arch you see in construction, they support your weight as it bounces up and down.
Your running shoes have arch support and cushioning so your muscles work less. Like any other muscles, if the muscles in the arch of your foot are not trained they weaken.
So I ask you this: if weak muscles in the arch leads to flat feet, are shoes that make those muscles work less the best choice?
Stiff soles are there to make the foot muscles work less as well. The less the muscles work, the weaker they become.
Plantar fasciitis is that sharp pain you may have felt in the sole of your feet after a run or when you wake up in the morning.
The plantar fascia is a tendonlike sheet of tissue at the base of your foot. It works with he muscles in your arch. That sharp pain comes from inflammation of the plantar fascia.
If the arch muscles are weak then the plantar fascia has to work more, to compensate for those weak muscles. More stress on the plantar fascia eventually leads to inflammation.
Thus weak foot muscles contribute to plantar fasciitis as well. Padded shoes, created to help the foot work less, contribute to weak foot muscles. Weak foot muscles then need support, we give them support, they stay weak or get worse, and on, and on we go. A vicious circle.
One way I alleviate plantar fasciitis pain is by using a golf ball. Walking can also help the recovery process.
Among the things I love most in the outdoors is the uneven terrain. The flat, shiny gym or home floor does little to develop foot muscles. It does help but not as much as when you walk, run , crawl and balance on uneven terrain.
Uneven doesn’t mean holes in the ground. Your foot muscles will react to the slightest drop, even if it’s 1mm.
That is one of the many reasons why I choose the outdoors for myself and also for my clients.
Should you throw away your shoes?
There is no doubt that shoes protect us in many situations, such as when we step on a sharp object. They also protect us during the winter. There is nothing wrong in wearing shoes.
However, there is the downside of wearing shoes which has been the topic of this article. Thus, the solution is to balance it out. Wear shoes, wear minimalist shoes and go barefoot as well, indoors but more importantly outdoors where you have uneven terrain.
Now, I am not a podiatrist, but I do know this: strong and flexible feet are healthy feet. Strong, flexible and healthy fit make good foundations for a strong, flexible and healthy body.
A great book to read is The Story Of The Human Body by Daniel Lieberman.
If you do need advice, or maybe have questions about minimalist shoes contact me.