|2 July 2012||Posted by Lara under Lara Hennessey, TSP Experts|
Feet seem to be everywhere lately, and it’s no wonder with summer upon us. Everyone is pulling out their sandals to play outside. My June issue of Yoga Journal had an article about taking care of your feet, keeping them stretched out and happy. After all, they do so much for us! This morning I saw a headline on AOL leading to an article about how flip-flops are bad for you. Initially I rolled my eyes, but then curiosity got the best of me and I followed the link. It lead to a short article and video about how flip-flops cause injury from things like stubbing your toes and scraping your ankle on various hazards in life. Then, it went on to say flip-flops also cause foot and back pain. They had a podiatrist weigh in saying that flip flops do not offer any support for our feet which causes many problems if worn for a long time. He over-used the word “support” in his response and I got to thinking, are the flip flops the villains, or are supportive shoes the villains?
Think about this, human feet are meant to walk. We evolved to walk on the earth through all terrains. When did shoes come into existence? And I mean actual shoes. The Romans and Egyptians had sandals, only differing from flip-flops in that they wrapped around the ankle. Native Americans and other nomadic tribes wore moccasins, or other various pieces of leather used only to keep the foot warm. There was no support in early shoes, yet we don’t have records of people habitually complaining of back or foot pain.
Our feet have over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. What happens to those muscles when you stuff them inside a cushy shoe? What happens to your leg muscles when you put them inside a cushy car? Nothing happens. Your muscles won’t develop unless you use them. If you get out of the car and walk, your leg muscles will strengthen. If you take off your shoe, your foot muscles will strengthen. Our feet are our foundation. Everything in the body is connected and is affected by the feet. If you have weak feet, the rest of your body will suffer. It’s like doing a sit up with no core strength. What do you do? You probably compensate by grabbing your legs to pull yourself up by arm strength, or rocket yourself up by bringing the legs down. When you walk on weak foot muscles, your knee, hip, and lower back muscles, tendons and ligaments must compensate to help you balance. That is not what they were designed for, so it hurts. The article on AOL said that wearing flip-flops for extended periods of time causes foot and arch pain. Well yes, if you always wear super supportive shoes and then go into flip-flops, it would hurt. Doesn’t going to the gym or a yoga class for the first time, or after a long absence hurt?
I, personally, cannot wear tennis shoes or any kind of athletic shoe without being extremely uncomfortable. Every time I put my foot in an athletic shoe, there are weird lumps. They are usually on the outside of my heel, the ball of my big toe, and under my arch. That is the support to make you center your weight on your foot so as not to throw out your back, knees or hips. But if you grew up barefoot or in Keds (which offered no support) like I did, you already do that. Learning to walk, play, and run barefoot allows you to figure out where the weight needs to go on your foot to balance. And in that exploration, you are building up the muscles necessary to support the rest of your body, and keep it in line. A child will naturally shift their weight around on their feet as they learn to walk in order to find the placement and balance that is comfortable. A child would realize really quickly that all of the weight on one side of their foot doesn’t feel good. If your feet were stuffed into shoes as soon as possible, you didn’t get to have this exploration. Your shoes molded your feet to exactly where they needed to go, and your muscles stayed soft and undeveloped. This lack of exploration and learning by feel is what leads to adults standing on one side of their foot when they take their shoes off. And that is what throws off the alignment of the back, hip, or knee, and causes pain.
Go explore. Take off your shoes and roll around on your feet. What feels right? Be honest and patient. What feels right may not feel comfortable at first. It may feel weird if you’ve spent your whole life standing off center. As you roll around, pay attention to how your legs, hips, and back feel. Take a yoga class. Yoga is great for developing foot muscles because you are barefoot the whole time. Kick off your shoes a little more often and feel the earth under your feet. There are hundreds of thousands of nerve endings in your feet that are stifled all day in shoes. Walk on the grass barefoot. Let your feet feel.
Want more information? This is a good article to start with, if you just ignore the product pushing paragraph!