Chances are you don’t put that much time, thought and effort into choosing your everyday shoes. You probably don’t spend nearly as much money on your daily shoes as you do on your running shoes. There may be a connection between this neglect and the niggling injuries you cannot shake off.
Your choice of shoe plays an integral role in the function of the foot during your gait cycle.
Our walking and running pattern (gait cycle) is divided into phases. During each phase our bodies are designed to assume a certain position and when in that position, activate certain muscles.
Muscles, ligaments and tendons were designed to take load and stretch but only during certain phases of the gait cycle. Injuries can occur when soft tissue is loaded during the wrong phase of the gait cycle.
Walking puts more strain on your body than you may think. The force you place on your foot with each step is three times your body weight.
A sedentary person takes between 1,000 and 3,000 steps a day: roughly 2.4km. If you are conscious about using stairs instead of the lift or escalator, you don’t choose the closest parking spot, and you are a busy person, you will take roughly 10,000 steps (8km) per day.
That’s a lot of force over many steps each day, and they can take their toll.
Dress for the activity
Wear comfortable shoes when you spend a lot of time on your feet. Once or twice a year, you can put on those designer shoes that cost an arm and a leg, and make your feet hurt, but also turn heads and raise eyebrows.
When your feet are sore, wear your most supportive shoes for a few days.
Don’t go barefoot with sore feet.
If your feet are sore after a once-off fancy-shoe stint, use foot soaks, ice-packs, and massage. If you have painful feet weekly due to everyday footwear, you need to make some major changes. It may be a costly exercise but will save you loads in lost time due to injury, and money on medical bills.
So, where do you start, what do you look for, and how should it feel?
What to look for
The shoe and foot should function as a unit when walking, allowing you to walk heel-to-big toe. These are features you want:
• Rubber sole
• Same shape as your foot
• Cushioned innersole
• Strap around front and back of sandals
• Flexible around the forefoot
How to fit a shoe
- Try shoes on towards the end of the day, when your feet are swollen
- Try on both left and right shoes and walk around in the shop
- They should feel comfortable immediately
This is a comprehensive list of the types of shoes, and shoe features, that you should avoid!
Cheap shoes. The money you save buying these, will be spent healing your feet.
Slip-on shoes with no back. They cause you to grip with your toes when walking, deactivating the kinetic chain.
Heavy and hard shoes. Heavy shoes won’t give you bigger calves: they just load the kinetic chain abnormally.
Shoes that need wearing-in or stretching. The shoe should fit you. You will move abnormally in tight and badly-fitting shoes.
Sandals with strap between the toes. Flip-flops don’t offer any support to the forefoot, which discourages pushing through the big toe during the gait cycle. This causes excessive motion in the forefoot. Even if it has a strap around the back, it offers no support to the forefoot.
Soft soles. A shoe with a very soft sole will compress easily, causing abnormal foot positioning and improper gait activation.
Worn-out shoes. Despite what you paid, shoes have a lifespan. The upper can still be intact and looking good, but the most important part of the shoe is the midsole, and it could be completely worn out. Replace them, even if they only lasted you a season. You obviously got a lot of wear out of them.
Ballet pumps. They are very popular, creating a lot of business for the medical profession. Ballet pumps are too flat, the cut over the front of the foot is too low, and they don’t offer any support with their flimsy upper and heel. They have a very shallow toe box and the toe shape is abnormal.
Your shoes should adapt to your body, rather than forcing your feet and gait to adapt to them.
Make positive changes and watch the niggles fade away.
Find this article with cautionary tales of footwear trauma on page 70 of TRAIL 21.