Most people don’t stop to think about the relationship between their footwear and the pain they feel in the feet and knees, or even the hips and back. Athletes are generally more aware of the importance of proper footwear, since they put their bodies through more miles of activity at a higher intensity. Every step causes a moderate impact up through the foot, ankle, shin, knee and so on up into at least the low back and possibly further. As your pace increases, so does the impact on these body parts. The impact is necessary to build and maintain bone and muscle strength, but has the potential to cause injury if you are not absorbing the shock appropriately. One major reason for not absorbing shock properly through the lower limb and spine can be due to poor footwear choices.
So what’s a person to do when faced with footwear choices? First, consider what you are going to do while wearing them. The more impact and endurance you expect from your feet, the more you should look for in your shoes. If you are desk-jockey who is planning a walking tour on cobblestone, you should go for a fair amount of support and a little cushion. On the other hand, if you are stepping out of a taxi to go to the theatre (not intending to walk more than a hundred metres) you should be fine with the prettiest, highest, pointiest shoes you feel like wearing. In general, support and to some extent cushioning, matter from shoes. Arch supports limit the flattening and stretching of the arch and helps to control the motion of the ankle and leg above it.
My husband is a desk-jockey here in the downtown core and one of his petite colleagues really enjoys shoes, especially stilettos. She will wear fantastic outfits with stunning little shoes and teeter around the office, only to change into flats for a trip to the food court. She refers to those stilettos as her ‘foot ornaments’ and she is absolutely right. She hardly goes anywhere in them and doesn’t rely on them for support or cushioning. They are purely fashion. She will switch to more functional footwear for longer distances or a little more speed. ??For many, the trips to and from work aggravate foot and leg soreness and are helped (even temporarily) by going for the really supportive footwear – running shoes. Running shoes offer some of the best technology out there to support and cushion the foot and can make an important difference when dealing with an injury. Often it’s worth strengthening the foot and leg muscles as well. Change heel heights from day to day to keep the heel tendon from getting tight. Taking the strain off of an injured area will usually allow it to heal. Fashion shoes can be left under the desk or carried in.
People bring in a lot of shoes to show me, insisting that they bought them because they felt “so nice, soft and cushy”. Beware! Those with high, stiff arches really need that cushion for shock absorption, but they only comprise about 5% of the population. Most of us tend to have lower arches, so a firmer shoe structure will actually translate into more comfort after we leave the store.
If you have more questions or concerns about your footwear and how it is impacting your functioning and/or recovery from your injuries please contact us today to book in with one of our expert physiotherapists.