Shoes are a very important part of our lives. We buy them for function, style, comfort, and price. No one can resist their favorite pair of shoes on sale. I bet you buy 2 or more pairs when you see a sale! Some people buy their shoes strictly on style. We ask ourselves how do they look, or do they make my feet look awesome? Others buy shoes based on function like for running, tennis, or golf. Most buy shoes for comfort. Comfort is important for arch soreness, heel soreness, or just tired feet. Regardless of why you buy shoes, there are three things you must consider before you buy, or you could be buying yourself into more problems.
Good Shoe Benefit #1 – Room for the Toes
The toe box is important. The width of the toe box will affect your toes and ultimately the whole foot. If the toe box is pointy, you could end up with bunions, Morton’s neuromas, or calluses on the outside of your big toe. What most don’t realize is, pointy shoes can lead to your hip externally rotating and causing hip joint damage later in life as well as low back pain. A pointy-toe shoe forces your foot to point outward as you cannot push the end of the point. The whole leg must rotate which adds strain to the hip joint and can tilt the pelvis leading to increased compression in the low back, or Lumbar area. If you have begun walking with your toes pointing outward, this can be changed.
Solution for Toe Issues
At home, in your bare feet, practice walking with your toes pointing inward so that you push off with the correct part of your foot. Walk next to a wall in case you lose your balance. Don’t do this while walking long distances in the beginning as you could create a cramp in your hips. When sitting, massage the bottom, and top, of your feet with your hands. On the bottom, press one spot at a time feeling for sore spots. When you feel one, stay on the spot, breathe out, and allow the muscle to release. Too much pressure and the brain will contract the muscle to stop the pain. Once the pain stops, move to the next sore spot.
When massaging the top of your feet, start at the toes and rub up between the bones of each toe, to the ankle. Remember, to breathe out as you rub up the foot, and allow the muscle to relax. This may hurt in the beginning so be gentle. You can gently stretch the big toe out from the foot if it has begun to curve inward. Really bad bunions will be nearly impossible to reverse. The best you can hope for is to stop the inward curving of the toe.
I once worked with a 70-year-old physician who had calluses on the outside of his big toe. He had gone to his podiatrist for 3 years to get the calluses shaved off. I did this work with him every Tuesday for 30 minutes for 3 months. He came in to see me one day and he was laughing. His podiatrist had told him there was nothing there for him to shave off. My client said, “You son of a gun, why didn’t you tell me how to do that.” The podiatrist laughed and said, “I didn’t know how to do that.” We all have our talents in one way or the other.
Good Shoe Benefit #2 – No Arch Support Needed
We have been told our entire lives that good shoes have arch supports. In fact, there are many practitioners still today that would tell you that. The truth of the matter is, if the muscles of your feet were strong enough and flexible enough, there would be no need for arch supports. The arch supports are either propping up weak arches or preventing tight arches from extending. Either way, it reduces the pain. However, it also atrophies the muscle of the arch, the plantar fascia.
Your foot has 29 muscles, 26 bones, and 33 articulations. The reason for all these pieces of the foot is to provide balance, power, and cushioning. You were not designed to need Nike or Reebok for your feet. They were perfect until we messed them up by wearing shoes. I have nothing against shoes because it is nice to have them for protection against objects on the ground, plus they cover up stinky feet. The idea that we need shoes to walk, run, or jump is not true. Healthy feet will allow you to do just that.
The Problem Starts Here
The purpose of the plantar fascia is to work as a shock absorber for your knees. I am sure you have heard of plantar fasciitis, the sharp pain in the heel. The mistake in treating plantar fasciitis is everyone thinks it is the arch that causes the pain in the heel, therefore the diagnosis is named after the plantar fascia muscle. This is why most treatments take weeks to months with very expensive boots, injections, and braces. The cause is actually in the upper calf area and depending on which part of the heel hurts will determine which calf muscle is causing the pain.
When a shoe has an arch support, or orthotic, with a thick sole, the foot cannot bend. Many shoes are impossible to bend with your hands, much less your foot. These shoes prevent the usage of the foot, leaving the knee to absorb the impact resulting from the foot striking the ground. The harder shoe prevents the ankle from bending which removes the usage of the calf, forcing the brain to use the upper area of the thighs to walk. This can lead to low back stiffness, neck and shoulder stiffness, and head forward posture.
The best shoes should bend in half, but I must warn you, don’t just go out and buy a pair without stretching your calves, The video is here. Then follow the self-massage technique as I described in Benefit #1. Some of you may still think that the typical calf stretch at the gym or PT will work. If you drop your heel off a board, step, or curb; stand on a slant board; or lean against a wall, you are not stretching your calves. You are stretching your Achilles tendon. If you think a massage machine will soften your feet, without your brain releasing the muscle, you are sorely mistaken as well.
Good Shoe Benefit #3 – No Heel
Most shoes have heels or heel pads, and many people think they need them. Believe it or not, heels and heel pads cause us to walk heel to toe. I know, I too thought that was the way we are supposed to walk for most of my life. There is scientific evidence that says that is incorrect. Let me rant here for a moment.
At this point, I cannot help myself. If you are wearing heels higher than 3 inches, I beg you, please throw them away! High heels are the worst shoe any human can put on their feet. I realize, ladies, that society pressures you to wear high heels, and I will cut you some slack and say up to 3 inches, but I have done unofficial studies on the pressure high heels place on the ball of your foot. The results are, that once your heels are over 3 inches, nearly 80% of your body weight is on your toes. Since most high heels have pointy toe boxes, just because they are more stylish, you are walking your way into a bunion or Morton’s neuroma at some point in your life.
Alright, back to the story, Whew! The pounding of heel-first walking will reverberate the impact throughout your body including your spine. This can lead to compression of the spine. With every step you take, the impact is twice your body weight running through your body. The foot being a shock absorber becomes extremely important to protect your knees, hips, and spine. Walking correctly means walking on the whole foot and pushing off with your toes. This means the ankle needs to be able to bend more than 90 degrees.
The joints and discs remain lubricated with synovial fluid. If your joints and vertebrae lose spacing between the bones, the synovial fluid is squeezed out allowing the bones to rub against each other. In the joints, this can mean damage to your cartilage, which can lead to joint replacements. In the spine, our discs are lubricated with synovial fluid. When the vertebrae become too close together, they can affect the health of the discs. Problems like degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, and pinched nerves will occur. Bulging discs can be from the muscles on one side pulling harder than the muscles on the opposite side. As you can see, how we walk will determine your health, orthopedically and neurologically, as you age.
Too many things are blamed on the aging process. It is true that as time goes on, we do feel more pain, things seem to wear out, and we seem to get weaker, but is it about your age, or what you have done in your life? I see older people improving their lives by making small changes daily. I love listening to an older person talk about walking up and down stairs without holding onto the railings for the first time in years. Some will talk about being able to walk farther than they have in months or years. When I think about my own life, I am more flexible, have more energy, and live with little to no pain compared to how I felt twenty years ago. I find it difficult in my world to accept the aging process as something we can do nothing about.
Foot Metatarsal Extension and Flexion
Stretching is more about feeling the muscles letting go than forcing them to stretch. If you are forcing the muscle, you could be doing strength training, not stretching. Make sure you are feeling the intended muscle stretching. If not, the form could be wrong. Holding for 5 seconds allows the brain to release the muscle before it senses any danger. Repeating the stretches 10 times allows the brain to learn it is safe for the muscle to move that way.
Foot Pronation and Supination 1
Don’t forget the Tennis Ball Massage!
Softening your hips and back is easy when you use the tennis ball. Just lean against the wall and apply enough pressure to feel the painful area. The temptation is to press harder but resist it. Instead, breathe out and allow the muscle to soften under the ball. Then move to another spot and repeat. Continue doing this until most of the painful spots are gone. Check out previous newsletters to see the video.
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About The Muscle Repair Shop
Drawing upon his personal experience as a former competitive athlete turned wheelchair, obese, and chronic pain sufferer, Muscle Repair Shop Founder Butch Phelps decided to take his health into his own hands when at the age of 36 he was told he might not make it to his 40th birthday. Applying balanced nutrition advice from his doctor along with a sound exercise program, he went from 315 lbs. to 180 lbs. Motivated by his experience, he then acquired degrees in advanced therapeutic massage and aging sciences to help people eliminate chronic pain. This included applying his expertise in how people age, including the effects of dementia, anatomy, psychology, and the day-to-day struggles of living as an older person to his practice and development of The Muscle Repair Shop’s one-of-a-kind Stretch n’ Release Technique.
Available through in-office and virtual coaching treatment sessions, this unique combination of stretching and breath work teaches the brain to release the emotional side of muscle tension and pain allowing clients to find lasting relief and healing from stiffness, aches, injuries, and chronic pain. The at-home exercises come with customized instructional videos and virtual or in-office support, allowing clients to enjoy and experience life and sports as they did before limitations slowed or curtailed activities.