During the course of the day most of us will walk between 6,000 and 10,000 steps on average. Over a lifetime, this can add up to almost 129,000 kilometres or the equivalent of walking the perimeter of the Australian coastline three and a half times! As a result, and with the additional strains we put on our feet, such as the weight that they carry and the shoes we stuff our toes into, it’s important to get off on the ‘right foot’ with foot health to prevent injuries and pain to the feet and to other areas of the body.
Are you aware that incorrect placement of your feet can cause issues in other parts of your body, such as your knees, hips or back? Because your feet are at the base of the kinetic chain, any dysfunction here can easily disrupt other parts of your body. As a physiotherapist I quite often see clients with back pain who experience significant improvement when we work on the way they walk and stand. It almost sounds too simple, doesn’t it? If we think about this logically, this success is the result of relieving joints and muscles in the kinetic chain which are under stress and overcompensating for incorrect biomechanical positioning and movement of the feet.
Aside from posture and the way we move, what we move in also has a great effect on foot health. I’m never surprised to see ladies (and men) come to me with complaints of pain and other symptoms in their feet as a result of choosing incorrect footwear in their earlier years. If damage has been done, it can be difficult to reverse, but a physio can offer advice to make life for your feet more comfortable and to prevent any further problems from occurring by choosing the right footwear. Here is a list of my seven tips for selecting the correct pair of shoes:
1. Sufficient toe space
The front of the shoe should have sufficient room for your toes, both width and height. Your toes should be able to assume their natural positioning, anything less and your foot health is compromised.
2. Correct length
Your feet will move slightly within your shoes as you walk, therefore you should allow for a few millimeters between your toes and the inside of the shoe. If your shoes are too short, you risk ingrown toenails, blisters and various other uncomfortable conditions. If they are too loose, then the foot moves without restraint resulting in instability and imbalance.
3. Strong heel counter
The back of the shoe should have good support without digging into your Achilles tendon. You should not have enough room to insert your finger between the back of the shoe and your heel.
4. Torsional stiffness
A good test of support of a potential new shoes is holding the toe of the shoe in one hand and the heel in the other, twist it like you are wringing it out. If it twists too easily, you won’t have enough support, which is particularly bad for a foot that rolls inwards. Recent trends to lighten shoes have in some cases sacrificed some of this postural support – save the pair of ‘free’ or minimalist shoes as ‘occasional’ not everyday shoes.
5. Don’t assume stretching
As much as you might like a pair of shoes, if your decision relies on the assumption they will stretch, don’t put your feet in peril during the ‘breaking-in’ period. If the shoe isn’t comfortable when you try it on, don’t waste your money.
6. Front flex
The toe area should have some flexibility for movement. Bend it to see if the rigidity is going to hamper your steps.
7. Don’t be a slave to size
Like clothing, not every shoe designer and manufacturer sees feet the same way. Just because you ordinarily wear a size 9, don’t force yourself to adhere to this number. No one can see your shoe size, but your discomfort will always be apparent!
We expect a lot from our feet however they are often neglected. A great way to reward and thank your feet is with a relaxing foot soak, massage, a pedicure or even something as simple as putting them up at the end of the day and giving your toes a good wriggle! Don’t forget that your Back In Motion physiotherapist can provide assessment and advice for any issues you may be having with your feet – from shoes, custom orthotics and suitable exercises and stretching.
How do you look after your feet?