It has taken some 4 million years to perfect the human foot, but we’re ruining our foot health with the shoes we wear.
As time goes on and the shoe industry along with our increasingly complex fashion tastes develop, we continue to destroy our feet, both with the shoes we wear and the way they make us walk.
The very nature of shoe design is to compensate for the perceived deficiencies of the foot. Walking on a hard surface barefoot hurts, and shoes help us by providing a structure of comfort. Many people have flat or narrow feet, so shoes are able to create an arch or provide cushion where it’s needed for stability’s sake. Any then shoe design is also guided by vanity and the desire to look fashionable.
But what about sports shoes, which are supposedly designed for ultimate foot health, comfort, safety and practicality? The truth is, they aren’t any better than their fashionable counterparts. In a paper published in a 1991 issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise entitled “Athletic Footwear: Unsafe Due to Perceptual Illusions”, its authors wrote, “Wearers of expensive running shoes that are promoted as having additional features that protect (e.g., more cushioning, ‘pronation correction’) are injured significantly more frequently than runners wearing inexpensive shoes (costing less than $40).”
Another study showed that people who wore expensive shoes with extra cushioning were twice as likely to suffer an injury. According to another study, people in expensive, cushioned running shoes were twice as likely to suffer an injury—31.9 percent — when compared with those who ran in hard-soled shoes — 14.3 percent. A Harvard study determined that running in trainers increases the impact on the knee by up to 36 percent and that barefoot running and training strengthen the foot and ankle all the way up to the knee, hip, core and torso. This makes sense when you consider that the sole and toes of our feet contain 200,000 nerve endings, which connect to the rest of our body and brain. Shoes block these sensors. Runners land with a heel strike that is comparable to the heel being hit with a hammer 1.5 to 3 times their body weight.
From high heels, which alter our postures, to boots to flip flops, our foot fashion choices are not guided by comfort in as much as they are guided by fads. So, for comfort’s sake and the addition of frills and fancies, we are walking in shoes that change our gait and inflict pain.
According to Dr. William A. Rossi in a 1999 article in Podiatry Management, “It took 4 million years to develop our unique human foot and our consequent distinctive form of gait, a remarkable feat of bio-engineering. Yet, in only a few thousand years, and with one carelessly designed instrument, our shoes, we have warped the pure anatomical form of human gait, obstructing its engineering efficiency, afflicting it with strains and stresses and denying it its natural grace of form and ease of movement head to foot.”
What are our options? Sure, it’s not like we can walk around barefoot through the city or on the job, but we can nix cushioned shoes and stick to hard-surfaced shoes with as little heel as possible. Reserve your high heels for special occasions. Take advantage of alone time and walk around the house barefoot. We can also switch to barefoot running shoes, which have already been gaining popularity among runner’s circles. According to Harvard researchers, habitual barefoot runners have shorter strides and increased frequency, avoid impact peaks on hard surfaces, keep joint moments low, and have strong feet.
Photo Credit: Tobyotter