Here at Spinal Symmetry, a common question we receive is about footwear. So this month we thought we would delve deeper into this topic to look at why we wear shoes, why shoes can help or hinder us, and little tips that can help you make better footwear decisions.
Before we decide on what shoe to buy, it is good to understand the anatomy of our feet.
The foot is a flexible structure that consist of bones, ligaments, joints and muscles which help us stand up as well as do activities such as walking and running.
The foot is made up of 3 parts:
The Forefootwhich has 5 Phalanges (toes) and 5 Metatarsals (long bones)
The Midfootwhich is made up of 5 bones that is best described as a pyramid-like collection of bones- consisting of 3 cuneiform bones, the cuboid bone and the navicular bone
The Hindfootwhich is the heel and the ankle. The ankle is the bottom end of the tibia and fibula (the bones of the lower leg below the knee) and is supported by the talus bone. The calcaneus is the largest bone in the foot which makes up the heel
The muscles, tendons and ligaments in the foot along both surfaces allows for movements needed for activity and balance.
To understand how the foot works in different activities, the best way to grasp this is to describe what the foot does during its most basic, everyday action- walking.
Phases of Walking
There are 2 phases that the foot goes through while walking, stance phase and swing phase:
Stance phase is when the foot is on the ground. This accounts for the 60% of the walking cycle.
Swing phase is when the foot is in the air.
There are 4 stages in the stance phase:
Early flat foot
This is when the foot is on the ground. At the end the of the flat foot stage the body’s centre of gravity passes the top of the foot. The centre of gravity is located around the S2 of the sacrum when standing upright.
This stage also acts as a shock absorber which helps disperse the weight through the foot
Late flat foot
This is when the centre of gravity passes the neutral position. This stage ends when the heel lifts of the ground.
This is also the transition from being a shock absorber into a rigid lever so it can propel the body forward
Heel rise is when the heel leaves the ground. In the action during walking, the amount of force going through the foot is about 2-3x times your body weight. Considering the average person takes about 3000-5000 steps per day, that is an incredible amount of force going through the foot each day.
Biomechanics of the Foot
Everyone has a different shaped foot. The most common biomechanical dysfunctions affecting feet type are flat feet, fallen arches, or over pronation/supination.
There can be multiple reasons why people have biomechanical issues with their feet.
One of the reasons are caused by changes in the mechanics of the hips and knees leading to mechanical dysfunction and muscle imbalances downstream into the feet . Another reason why feet can become dysfunctional is because of traumas, that is, anything from mild ankle sprains to complex fractures.
These can alter how weight is transferred through the foot, which in turn will alter walking and running patterns. A side effect of this can be asymmetrical wearing of your shoes, which can reinforce the currently altered biomechanics and further lead to knee, hip, or back pain.
With the Spinal Symmetry method we always endeavour to address the root cause of your issue, so we start at the pelvis making sure there is the correct alignment and symmetry for the pelvis, which is the foundation of your spine and also a base for your legs to function from. Then, as we mentioned earlier, we assess your hips to ensure your centre of gravity is restored to its genetic position in the centre of your pelvis (at S2).
These corrections allow for significant biomechanical changes in the knees and feet- this means that potentially the feet may no longer need to deal with compensatory forces from an asymmetrical structure.
Depending on the individual, this process may need to be assisted by either or a combination of consistent Dynamic Therapy (https://www.spinalsymmetry.com/single-post/2016/06/02/The-History-of-the-Dynamic-Therapy-Strap)or orthotic use to reinforce the correct biomechanical adaptations in your feet and walking patterns.
The Diagram above is a very basic example how a shift in centre of gravity due to changes in the angle of the hips influences the rotation of the knee, which in turn changes the biomechanics in feet. With every treatment there is going to be a neurological response in the foot as it adapts to these changes, which is one of the reasons why it is important to have the right support for your body to encourage its return to its symmetrical blueprint.
Choosing the right shoe
After considering these factors that can influence your feet, it is important you have the right footwear to support them. With new technology and designs in shoes coming out every month, there is always a new style with different shapes and features, making choosing the right shoe for you seem almost impossible at times.
There are a few things to look for :
1. Examine the quality,shape and designof the sole of the shoe as well as the insole. Make sure it is supportive for your foot type.
If unsure what foot type you are, pick up an old pair of shoes and see were the most wear and tear is. This will give you some sort of idea- refer to the diagram ‘foot arch types’ above
BUT to be 100% sure what foot type you are and which type of shoe is right for you, please visit a podiatrist
2. Decide what that shoe will be most used for. There are different shoes made for walking compared to running
As stated above, different shoes will suit you better depending on the activity you intend to use them for. It is recommended that you have different shoes for different tasks- this will allow the shoes to assist in maintaining the natural movement of your foot to aid the transition of your centre of gravity through the stages of foot movement.
These shoes below are a basic example of shoe types that are available on the market.
As we’ve discussed, the forces going through the foot are high, so you will have to find a shoe that suits your type of activity.
Off road running
More aggressive tread for grip on rocks, mud, dirt. These shoe provide good traction, stability, support, and under foot protect
If you have an understanding on the way you move, you can properly decide on what type of shoe you need, again this may need to be diagnosed by a podiatrist.
When you do start wearing new shoes that provide a change in support and function, there is often a period of adjustment in which there may be some negative symptoms associated.
By choosing the correct shoe for your needs and addressing any other biomechanical barriers in the body from the pelvis down, the combination of these changes should eventually facilitate a much more functional and lasting solution to any aches, pains, or tightness experienced previously.
However, as every body is unique and the complexity and combination of issues you may be having will be individual, to choose the exact shoe for your body and foot type is impossible to be completely determined within this article.
It is important to speak to professionals, either a practitioner at Spinal Symmetry, or a podiatrist, who can give you advice that is specific to your exact needs and biomechanics.