If you are experiencing painful arches, you probably don’t have a happy spring in your step. Wouldn’t you like to learn how you can have happy feet again?
Let’s look at the anatomy behind painful arches. Foot structure plays a huge role in posture, neck and shoulder pain, low back pain, knee pain, and of course, foot pain. Foot pain is very obvious ., but do you ever suspect the foot being the source of all those other body pains?
Each time we stand, we are balancing our head, which weighs 10-12lbs, on top of our shoulders. If you stand barefoot and focus on your feet, you can feel the muscles in your feet and calves firing to maintain that balance. In this post, I will discuss the 3 keys to eliminate painful arches and, in turn, remove your suffering from the other body pains mentioned above.
Key #1- Choose Your Shoes Carefully
Your painful arches may be caused by poor shoe choices. In fact, shoes are the #1 cause of most foot pain. When I buy a pair of shoes, I look for flexibility in the shoe. Can I bend it in half? Is the toe box pointy?
The design of the shoe can lead to foot problems. Pointy-toed shoes lead to bunions and Morton’s Neuromas, a nerve pain between the toes that usually requires surgery. A pointy-toed shoe with any heel height will place intense pressure on the ball of the foot and smashes the toes together.
The flexibility of the shoe is important as it allows your foot to actually bend. If you can bend the shoe in half, your foot can use all of its muscles to propel your forward. This can help reduce head forward posture and neck and shoulder pain. Stiff shoes can tighten calf muscles which lead to plantar fasciitis because the shoe prevents the ankle from bending, again causing atrophy in the foot muscles.
Key #2– Arch Supports are Not the Solution
Shoe supports are not as important as they are made out to be. We have all been told that good shoes have arch supports, heel supports, and good cushion for the bottom of our feet. There are several problems with the premise behind these supports.
While arch supports do relieve pain when your arches are sore, the arch supports in shoes can also create pain. The arch supports that come in shoes prop the arch up because it is usually too weak to hold itself up. Over time, the arch support that comes in shoes no longer hold the arch up enough, and then we add bigger supports or orthotics, which is a cast for your unique foot shape. Now the muscles in the foot all begin to atrophy and soon the person cannot walk barefoot at all!
Believe it or not many doctors tell their patients to never walk barefoot on hard surfaces! But the truth is, the foot arch has atrophied because of the use of supports. If your foot’s muscles can be activated again and prompted to help you walk and balance in a more natural way, you can and should walk barefoot on hard surfaces.
Arch supports also cause people to walk more to the outside of the foot. Again, there is support for pain on the outside of the foot.
Some people are heel strikers. Any height of the heel on a shoe, even one-inch heels as in men’s shoes, force you to walk by striking the heel first. I know we have all been told that is the correct way for people to walk. The fact is, heel strikers send shock waves up through their legs and spine which can cause damage.
Some people walk on the ball of their feet and that causes pain at the knuckles of the toes. You guessed it, they have a pad for that too.
There is the misconception that a thicker sole will make the foot more comfortable as well. A thicker sole may feel like you are walking on air, but the reality is, the nerve endings in the bottom of your feet cannot feel the change in the level of the ground. As you age, your risk of falling becomes much higher when you have been walking with thicker sole shoes.
Key #3– Learn How to Walk
I know that learning how to walk sounds crazy because everybody knows how to walk, right? I spend hours each week watching people, of all ages, walk and I can tell you most people do not walk correctly. Your gait is very important to relieving foot pain and pain elsewhere. Once you have the right shoes and flexible soles, you need to think about how you are walking.
Most people walk with their thighs which drives the rate of low back pain up. When I watch someone walking, I am looking for the bend in their feet and not just their toes. Does the leg go behind them so they are pushing off with their toes? Are they extending the front leg out in front of them allowing their head to stay on top of their shoulders? Few people actually do this.
Your gait can decide how much pain you live with throughout your life. Chiropractors are always discussing your posture and try to adjust you to remain in a better posture, then you walk out, and screw it up. Therapists, Physical and Massage, work your muscles to straighten you out, and then you walk out. By not addressing how you walk, you are wasting time and money on straightening out your posture.
Solutions for Your Painful Arches
The most important thing you can do is to practice walking. Get a friend to help if needed. When practicing how you walk be sure to practice in a hallway or at least, next to a wall, even if you are young and vigorous. I have seen 18-year-olds lose their balance. Practice in bare feet so you can feel the floor. Check to see if you hit your heel first, if so shorten the distance so you hit on the whole foot with most pressure behind the knuckles of your toes.
Next, do you hit on the outside or inside of your foot. This is a result of the inside or outside calf muscle being short. Practice doing the opposite. if you walk on the outside, practice walking on the inside and vice versa. Finally, as you step through on your stride, can you feel yourself pushing off with your toes. Chances are, you are not.
Look to see if your leg actually goes behind you as your head is on top of your shoulders. If not, this could mean your calves are tight or your upper quads (front of the thighs) are tight. Check out this post for calves.
Solving foot pain is totally under your control and you can eliminate painful arches, but it will take some work if you want it to go away forever.
Learn how to do the correct calf stretches, not what they do at a gym.
Learn how to correctly stretch your quads, again not what they do at a gym.
Learn how to walk correctly.
Probably the last time someone talked to you about how you walk was when your were two. Once you were able to stand and move without falling, that was it. We are all walking the way we learned at two. How crazy is that?
Changing your mindset about shoes is very important. They are not just a fashion statement, but can potentially hurt you physically for life. It is no surprise that women suffer far more from foot pain than men. Look at the shoes women wear. If men wore the same shoes, you would see the same result. Think of the old cowboy needing help to take off his boots and the pain he was in.
If you are ready to improve your foot health, check out my videos at https://www.youtube.com/musclerepairshop. Or if you would like a virtual consultation and talk about what you can do, CLICK HERE.