100 Pairs of Shoes and Two Sore Feet – A guide to Foot Care
Have you ever got home from a long hard day standing at work, feet aching and all you can think about is kicking off your shoes and letting those puppies breathe? You sit there at the end of the day, kicked back on the couch, rubbing your feet and wondering why they always hurt. Maybe you’re an experienced crossfitter or athlete, with a pair of shoes and some extra gear for every training occasion, yet over the years have still experienced multiple injuries and recurring pain in the knees, hips and back?
Have you ever thought that maybe the strength and mobility of your feet is the contributing factor to these? I mean when is the last time you specifically trained your feet?
The feet are the foundation of movement, they are the starting point for energy absorption and transmission throughout the entire body through any and every movement pattern. The source of the foot’s power lies within the arch, controlled by a symphony of muscles, tendons and ligaments, working together in perfect harmony, absorbing load and converting it into the powerful energy needed for running, jumping and changing direction.
Now we’ve all heard plenty of talk about the arch of the foot, with each and every Shoe Company claiming their new product has superior “arch support”, “arch control”, “injury reduction” and will “supercharge your performance”. Now despite what you may have been told, over time, these shoes actually do the opposite. They WEAKEN your arches, INCREASE injury risk and are DETRIMENTAL to your performance.
Our feet were designed to be barefoot, and barefoot is how they function best. They should be dexterous like our hands, splayed out and gripping to the ground. Shoes prevent this from happening, molding our feet into whatever style of shoe we choose. If you’ve ever broken a bone, you’ve seen what the affected body part looks like after 6 – 8 weeks of being in a cast, atrophied and weak, moulded to the shape of the cast surrounding it.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying shoes don’t serve a purpose, because we all know they do. However in today’s society, it’s “normal” for humans to have weak, fragile, stiff and painful feet.
Surely that’s not how nature designed our bodies most important tool?
Perhaps by spending more time barefoot the way nature intended, switching to less restrictive footwear, strengthening and working on foot mobility we can undo some of this damage, rid ourselves of pain and increase our performance.
Barrefoot? Get out of here ya stupid aussie hippie……
Now bear with me guys as we take a trip to Kenya.
A 2017 study aimed to compare Foot Strength and Subsequent Injury Risk in 2 Groups of Kenyan Adolescents, One Group who grew up highly active habitually barefoot and running without shoes, the second group growing up with their feet confined to shoes. The study found an increase in intrinsic foot strength in the Habitually Barefoot Group, with that same group resulting in an 8% Injury Risk compared to 61% in the Habitually Shoed Group. These Habitually Barefoot Children run on average 20km a day without shoes, with several studies and meta analysis proposing this early childhood barefoot running as a largely contributing factor to the huge success of Ethiopian Runners.
Now back to Norway…..
Okay I hear you Morgan, maybe our feet were not designed to be kept in shoes all the time, but what would you have me do? I need to wear them, for gods sake “Winter is Coming”.
So the solution to increasing your foot health is actually quite simple and theres a few things we can do, they aren’t overnight fixes, yet they will help strengthen your foot and reduce your injuries over time.
Spend more time Barefoot
Now this one is simple, if you’re at home, work, the backyard with the dog or somewhere you don’t have to be wearing shoes, ditch them and let those feet breathe. When training, try your accessory movements barefoot.
Slowly Switch to Less Restrictive Shoes
Remember those Vibram 5 Finger Shoes? What the hell happened to them? Well they pretty quickly got a bad rap because everyone jumped in too quickly, suddenly going from a highly cushioned running shoe, to a minimalist shoe without the support their foot was used too. Now for your feet, that’s like jumping from a bodyweight squat to a triple digit snatch overnight, it’s probably not going to end well.
Instead, if you’re used to a highly cushioned shoe or wearing orthotics, take your orthotics or insoles out. Spend some time walking and wearing your shoes without them, if your feet or knees begin to hurt, put them back in and try again the next day. This will give your feet some time to adjust, strengthen and prepare to support themselves. Once you can comfortably walk without them, switch to a more minimalist shoe for your everyday like a Van’s. Now this process may not be quick, on average it can take 6 – 8 weeks, however this will differ depending on your feet and if you’re currently wearing Orthotics.
Take your time, Listen to your Body. Slow and Steady is Key Here.
Train Your Feet
Now just like we give extra attention to our Hamstrings, Glutes and Biceps, we need to give our Feet some love and care when it comes to training. Foot mobility drills and intrinsic strengthening exercises are key.
Similar to our previous point, slow introduction and long term consistency is key.
Check out the below videos for some ideas and exercises.
There you have it folks, A weak and dysfunctional foot complex can have endless impacts on the rest of the body when it comes to pain and performance. The solution is simple, give them some care and let them function the way nature intended.
Sometimes the solution is the most simple and obvious.