In my previous blog post, "Let Your Feet Prevent You from Falling," I explained the potential dangers of highly padded shoes, particularly for older adults, as they can increase the risk of falling. The response to that post was great, with many readers reaching out with questions and feedback. I decided to continue this important topic and share how the shape and design of our shoes not only can cause foot problems but can also affect our overall well-being. As a reflexology therapist, I often see the problems poor footwear can cause.
By understanding the dangers of certain footwear, we can make informed choices that prioritize our health. The right pair of shoes can provide support, stability, and comfort, enhancing our mobility and reducing the risk of injuries.
Thank you for your continued support and engagement.
Our Amazing Feet
In last week’s blog post, I explained how our feet have perfectly evolved to support our bodies effectively.
I won’t repeat here all that I wrote about the remarkable design of our feet, but I think this quote from the Vivobarefoot Site, a company that sells barefoot shoes, explains it well:
over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Your feet are amazing.
Since apes started walking on two feet, millions of years ago, evolution’s intelligence has fine-tuned our anatomy. Why mess with it? Padded, narrow trainers and shoes do exactly that.
So true - why mess with perfection?
A Narrow Perspective on Foot Health
Fashion often dictates what shoes we buy and sadly, pointy shoes, with their narrow toe boxes, may cause a variety of foot problems.
Many of us may not realize that our feet are naturally wider at the toes and gradually narrow towards the heel. This structure allows for proper weight distribution and toe splay, which is the natural way our toes spread for the best balance and function. However, because we have become accustomed to narrow, pointy shoes we may not realize the true shape of our feet anymore! Pointy shoes compress our toes into a confined space, changing the foot's natural alignment, and can lead to various foot problems and discomfort. Here are some common issues that can arise from wearing pointy shoes:
Corns and Calluses: These can result from constant friction and pressure on specific areas of the toes that are crowded into the small toe box.
Bunions: Pressure on the toes from narrow pointy shoes may displace the big toe joint.
Hammertoes: The continuous crowding and bending of the toes in pointy shoes can cause the toes to become permanently flexed, resembling a hammer-like shape.
Restricting Foot Function: Pointy shoes limit the natural movement and flexibility of the foot, which weakens the foot's muscles and can affect the stability and balance of the body.
So why would we take a perfect foot and smash our toes into a shoe that doesn’t fit?
We can blame smashing our toes together on the Medieval aristocrats who began wearing pointy shoes to distinguish themselves from commoners who walked barefoot, and often had wider feet. Research now shows that as a result, those aristocrats suffered from more bunions than the commoners.
My advice is don’t be an aristocratic snob. Opt for shoes with a wider toe-box. Your toes deserve freedom and comfort,
It’s hard to believe that for hundreds of years, women have been wearing shoes that are so poorly designed that they not only impede movement, but they increase the chances of falls and can cause long-term foot problems. Maybe it’s time to put our health before fashion and save our feet. Heels can cause many health concerns. Here are a few:
Bunions (hallux valgus):
A bunion is a painful bony bump that forms at the base of the big toe joint. Wearing high heels exerts pressure on the large toe joint. As the foot is forced into an unnatural position with the body weight shifting towards the toes, especially the big toe, this prolonged pressure can contribute to the development and progression of bunions.
Shortened Calf Muscles:
The elevated heel in high heels keeps the calf muscles in a shortened position for an extended period. This can lead to tightness and decreased flexibility in the calf muscles. I have also seen this lead to plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the bottom of the foot.
Additionally, the Achilles tendon, which attaches the calf muscles to the back of the heel, can also become shortened and stiff over time. These factors not only impair the foot's range of motion but can also increase the risk of injuries such as Achilles tendonitis.
High heels also have an impact on our posture. The forward tilt of the body caused by the elevated heel disrupts the natural alignment of the spine and pelvis. This altered posture places excessive stress on the lower back, leading to discomfort and potential long-term spinal issues. It can also affect other parts of the body, such as the hips and knees, and cause them injury.
Walking in high heels requires a significant amount of balance and stability. The narrow base and elevated heel height make it challenging to maintain proper stability while walking. This can increase the risk of ankle sprains, falls, and other injuries, especially when navigating uneven surfaces or stairs.
Here are some frightening examples of fall risks from high heels that these poor models have to endure on the catwalk.
I would not call this falling gracefully. I would call out this workplace for not ensuring the personal safety of their employees!
Finally, it's worth noting that high heels can lead to lasting alterations in the foot's bone structure. I vividly recall an incident a few years ago at an airport security checkpoint. A woman wearing extremely high heels removed her shoes, and as she walked barefoot, her foot retained the posture of someone wearing heels. This occurrence highlighted the long-term impact of high heels, as her foot bones had become permanently molded into that unnatural shape.
Save Your Toes from Flip-Flops
When clients come to my clinic, they already know one thing: I have a serious distaste for flip-flops. In fact, I've been known to jokingly threaten to toss their flip-flops in the trash if they dare to wear them again! But there's a good reason for my dislike of flip-flops, and it's all about protecting our feet.
First and foremost, flip-flops can be dangerous. Their flimsy design means your foot can easily slip off the shoe, putting your toes and heels at risk of injury. Sure, you could accidentally stub your toes while walking barefoot too, like bumping into a chair or table leg, but wearing flip-flops reduces your control and increases the chance of injury. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.
I was strolling along with two energetic dogs, both pulling on their leashes. Suddenly, they dashed toward another dog, and in my attempt to stop them, I yanked on the leashes with all my might. The force caused one of my flip-flops to twist, and my toes smashed into the unforgiving pavement. Ouch! The impact dislocated my two small toes, leaving them pointing sideways instead of their usual upright position. It was a frightening and painful experience that I never want to go through again.
Finally, the thin edge of flip-flops can easily get caught in escalators, elevators, doorways, or even on uneven pavements, making you vulnerable to a sudden and unexpected fall.
If absolutely necessary, use your flip-flops for the shower or poolside, but let's put the well-being of our feet first. Remember, flip-flops should never be mistaken for footwear.
Flip-Flops and Foot Stress One reason to reconsider wearing flip-flops is the risk of toe injuries, but there's another factor that concerns me even more: the additional effort our feet must exert to keep them from slipping off.
When we walk, our feet naturally flex downward, a motion that should cause flip-flops to fall off. However, to prevent this from happening, we find ourselves constantly gripping them with our toes and feet. This altered walking pattern becomes a regular occurrence when wearing flip-flops. Unfortunately, this places added stress on our feet and legs.
In essence, with every step we take in flip-flops, our feet are working harder to maintain a proper grip on the footwear, which can lead to discomfort and strain over time, particularly if flip-flops are worn frequently.
Flip-Flops and Foot Pain
I’d like to share a case study from my clinic to illustrate the potential consequences of wearing flip-flops. A few years ago, I had a young client who had been suffering from foot pain (plantar fasciitis) for two long years, which greatly limited her ability to participate in dance and sports classes.
She came to me for sessions to alleviate her pain using reflexology and incorporating muscle relaxation techniques for her tight calf muscles. Thankfully, after 2 weeks of 2 weekly sessions, we were successful in reducing her pain. However, there was another crucial change she made to support her healing process: she agreed to part with her flip-flops and purchased new sandals with a back strap instead.
In the photos below, you will notice color markings indicating the areas of pain, which I draw to allow us to track changes in both the intensity and location of pain over time. However, please pay close attention to the vertical line present in the ball of her foot. This line was a direct result of her gripping her flip-flops with her foot as she walked. Conversely, as she transitioned to the new sandals, you can observe how her foot opened up, relaxed, and the line gradually disappeared.
It is important to note that if this young client had not made the decision to part ways with her flip-flops, it is highly likely that her pain would not have completely subsided or it could have returned shortly after.
Please let this example serve as a warning of how wearing flip-flops can affect our feet and our well-being!
Our feet serve as the foundation for our body, and caring for them is essential for our overall well-being. Let's take steps (pun intended :-)) to choose healthier footwear that prioritizes foot health. --- Follow us on Linkedin Youtube Facebook Instagram
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