As runners, we require very little equipment for this sport. All we need is a trail, maybe a jacket depending on the weather, and some running shoes. But those shoes, oh those shoes. Chosen with great care and a lot of research, numerous pairs of running shoes are tried on and rejected. A select few are taken for a test run. At some point, a consultant at a running store may even study your stride and the build of your foot to determine the best shoe for you. With so much thought put into selecting just the right running shoe it might make you wonder, what are you putting on your feet the rest of the day when you’re not running? Do you put as much care into choosing the shoes you wear off the running course? The pair of shoes worn during your off times has a great impact on your running and can be detrimental to your training even if you always have the ideal running shoe on your foot.
Flip Flops…Convenient or Harmful?
With the start of summer, we get the return of the almighty flip flop. They’re light, airy, and very convenient for all of those on-the-go summer adventures. But, flip flops can alter your gait pattern in a way that can threaten your running biomechanics. When you wear a flip flop, you open your feet up to a world without any support or stability. You also introduce alterations to your gait pattern in order to keep the sandal on your foot while you walk. You are forced to grip the shoe with your toes as you swing your leg forward when walking, and you have to shorten the toe-off movement to keep the shoe on your foot. Now think about going through those altered walking movements 10,000 times in a single day with each step that you take. That leaves a lot of room for dysfunction to creep up into your walking and eventually into your running pattern.
When you think of elevated heels, you probably go straight to women’s high heels, right? But, tennis shoes can also fall under this category. Any shoe that has a heel that sits 4-6 mm higher than the toe box of the shoe can cause the same dysfunction and strain as stiletto heels. Shoes with elevated heels cause your toes to stay in dorsiflexion, while the ankle is stuck in plantar flexion—meaning your feet are stuck in two different parts of the walking or running cycle, otherwise known as gait cycle, chronically while in those shoes. Even your hips are forced to tilt forward unnaturally in order to help balance on the elevated heel. Over time, the heel cord or your Achilles tendon begins to shorten, which causes pulling on the entire posterior kinetic chain of the body, including the hamstrings, gluteus muscles, etc. Now that the muscles of your foot have become accustomed to an elevated heel, this opens up the foot and ankle to injuries when you put on your running shoes.
Shoes are not made to conform to the foot; rather the foot must conform to the shoe. The types of shoes you choose to wear can increase tissue irritations and injuries like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. And while foot injuries may go unnoticed initially, these alterations to the foot’s movement patterns can lead to knee and hip problems, making the entire body vulnerable to instability and injury. While full body functional exercises are part of the recipe to avoid injuries and even recover from them, proper footwear helps to remove some of the risk factors that can create vulnerabilities that lead to injury.
Just as you try to stay hydrated all day, every day, not just when you’re in training, finding a balance between comfort and stability is important for all the shoes we put on our feet, not just running shoes.
Until next time,
Abby Scheer, DC