My first year of college, I experienced shin splints, recurring stress fractures in my feet, various hip injuries- you name it. Upon visiting an orthopedic specialist, he informed me that I pronated when I walked, and wasn’t wearing the supportive type of shoe I needed to fit my foot, and gait. He even told me that it was more than likely that my other injuries aside from my stress fractures were probably a result of my pronation; and that once I got in the right shoes, with the right inserts, most of the problems that I had been experiencing should start to go away!
I’ve learned a lot about feet since then. One thing being the importance of foot health, foot tension, and it’s affect on the rest of the body. It just so happens that our bodies come in one piece (revolutionary right?). And that one piece is all connected.
As a matter of fact, if you were to cut the fascia all the way from your toes to your head (you'd have to be a really skilled cutter, mind you), you could actually have just one piece. So imagine, in this interconnected system what can happen if just one muscle gets tight? A tight muscle has the ability to pull a joint just a little out of orientation, and that shift can pull on another muscle that is attached to that same joint. Suddenly up and down the system from that one tight muscle, you are feeling pain.
A common way that lower extremity muscles tend to get stretched is through your feet. Think about it, your foot is the first thing that hits the ground, and it endures the pressure of your entire body weight, on a relatively small surface.
SO if you pronate, like me, you might experience a variety of symptoms in response to that abnormal movement- shin splints, IT band syndrome, tight Tensor Fasciae Latae (and other hip muscles), knee pain- just to name a few!
Getting a pair of shoes that is the right shoe for your particular foot type and gait can help support proper joint mechanics, and can help to control the foot strike in most cases. Not only will it help control your foot and ankle, but it will help put you in a better position all the way up the chain.
Even making sure your shoe is the right size is essential. When a load is applied to the foot consistently, such as during running, your feet can swell up to a half inch. Because of this there must be space within the shoe for that stretch. The foot is also the widest at the toes- however the toebox of most shoes are not built this way. Ignoring these details is the primary cause for:
Hammer toes (toes curl downward)
Hallux Valgus (bony bump that forms on the side of the big toe)
There is an easy way for you to avoid this. Specialty shoe stores will analyze your foot and will fit you in shoes that are best for your foot, for free! I go to A Snail’s Pace Running store in Monrovia, and it’s pretty cool. They have you stand on a machine that measures the pressures of your feet on the ground, they will put you on a treadmill and analyze your gait, and can give you various options of shoes that are the right fit for your foot.
If you’re local I definitely recommend going there, if not I’m sure if you research there is a store similar in your area.
If you do decide to go get fitted for shoes here are a few tips:
Do not assume that all shoes come in the same size (just because you have been a Men’s size 10 for life, does not mean this is right for every single shoe) Different brands and purposes of shoes have different lasts (the way a shoe is sized). For example, Nike just recently changed their sizing. They run about a half a size smaller than they used to.
Try several shoes on- don’t just settle on the first one you try.
Make sure toes have room to splay, or a roomy toebox.
Do not tie the shoes too tight.
Wear the type of sock you will be wearing during activity.
Try the shoes on at the end of the day- your feet and ankles will swell towards the end of the day, you want to be sure your shoes are willing to withstand these changes that might occur throughout the day, and be the right fit throughout.
PK Fitness Program Coordinator