One of the most common questions I get asked, especially by my female clients, is “What shoes should I be wearing?” or, more commonly “I really shouldn’t be wearing high heels, should I?” The knee-jerk reaction is to say that flat shoes are best and that high heels are really bad for your feet – but you may be surprised by the truth of the matter.
So – what shoes should I wear? The answer is: No shoes. Wearing shoes on our feet is the equivalent of wearing baseball gloves on our hands – can you imagine trying to drink coffee, hold a pen or drive with baseball gloves on all the time? Barefoot walking and running are popular for this very reason, and the more access your feet have to different surfaces and sensations, the better not only for your posture but for your brain as well.
Better for your brain? Well, it’s all about the feet… because in addition to 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than a hundred muscles, tendons and ligaments, each foot can have up to 7800 nerve endings, all supplying the brain with sensory and motor information. This means that the feet take up some of the largest real estate in the brain (right next to the genitalia part of the brain… foot fetish anyone?). Stimulating all these nerves is important – one of the basic rules of the brain is “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” Keeping these nerves happy will mean that your ability to sit, stand, walk and run is not compromised. That’s why it’s important to keep your feet happy with appropriate footwear.
If one must wear shoes, again, the answer is – moderation in all styles. Wearing flat shoes all the time is almost as bad as wearing high heels all the time – in fact, a study in 2010 showed that in terms of foot pain, support was the key point, not necessarily how high the shoe was (although high heels were generally worse). Most flat shoes nowadays are not made with arch support in mind and promote a lot of flat-footedness, or foot pronation, which can lead to a lot of problems in your knees, hips and back in later life. High heels are far worse and can lead to such problems as corns, hammer toes, bunions (hallux valgus), Morton’s neuroma, plantar fasciitis and many other medical conditions, most of which are permanent and require surgery to alleviate the pain. High heels — because they tip the foot forward — put pressure on the lower back by making the bottom push outwards, crushing the lower back vertebrae and contracting the muscles of the lower back.
So the answer is – mix it up a little. Don’t wear high heels all day every day or flat shoes all day every day, but if you can, vary the height and style of the shoe as much as possible. For the guys, or for anyone who must wear a certain shoe to work etc, prescribed foot exercises can help strengthen the muscles and promote a good arch, or rubbing a massage ball or golf ball under the sole of the foot can help to stimulate the nerves of the foot.
If you have foot pain that you want help with, please give Golden Spines Chiropractic a call on 02 9412 2722 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.