Feet, Footwear & Foot Pain

With the coming of spring many people`s thoughts now turn toward pursuing outdoor activities. They have had enough of the treadmill and exercise bike and wish to participate in fitness activities outside. Foot pain is a very common frustration for those wishing to pursue these outdoor activities. Understanding how the foot works and more importantly understanding the short comings of your specific feet are the first steps in determining the correct method to assist you with your difficulties.

The foot has a very complex job. First of all, the foot must function as a shock absorber as it strikes the ground. We contact the ground on the outside back corner of our heel and the foot rotates forward and inward. This action is called pronation. Pronation is important because it is how the foot absorbs shock. As we continue to roll toward the big toe, the foot begins to change in order to prepare for toe off. To do this, the foot moves in such a way as to lock out certain joints to reconfigure itself to become a more rigid lever. This change in position is called supination. Supination is important so that we can efficiently propel ourselves forward. In general, most problems arise because people are either over pronators or less often they are over supinators.

Over pronators typically have low arches, the feet tend to rotate to the inside (medially). The feet continue to rotate inwards past were they should. This puts an increased force load on the feet, the ankles, knees, hips and even the lower back. Over pronators may experience difficulties in any of these areas. A typical complication may be pain on the bottom of the foot which is especially sore after periods of non-weight bearing such as when first rising from sleep. This condition is called plantar fasciitis.

These people generally have the opposite problem from the over pronators. They typically have higher arches and tend to walk more on the outside of their feet. These people may also experience problems in the legs and lower back due to the transfer of pounding forces to the legs and back because the feet do not absorb shock well in this case.

 These days, many people have become obsessed with “getting their 10,000 steps a day in”. Imagine the increased stress and strain being placed on your feet, ankles, knees, hips and lower back if your feet are not working properly. This is particularly poignant in the spring as people tend to become more active but they also tend to kick off more supportive footwear in favour of less supportive sandals and flip flops. The good news is that there are now very good options for sandals and summer footwear that have been developed. Sandals can have custom orthotics built right into the footbed for example. This type of footwear is available from healthcare providers that provide foot care like chiropractors, physiotherapists, chiropodists and pedorthsists to name a few.

Now is the time to start preparing your spring and summer footwear options. If you are experiencing difficulties similar to those described above contact your local qualified health practitioner for a biomechanical assessment and gait analysis. Your practitioner can give you suggestions regarding footwear as well as help to determine if a custom may be the right fit for you. Correcting your foot mechanics will have a tremendous impact on your health and ultimately your quality of life.