There is always a debate of whether television imitates life or if TV influences life. I wonder sometimes if Cinderella had been wearing boots or a slick pair of converse, would it have changed the dynamics of the modern woman’s closet. Would 6 inch heels be replaced? What would that mean for closet space? More seriously, how would this change how pain?
I am going to do my very best to keep things simple and understandable but I don’t want to diminish the impact of what good foot health means and how it can impact the rest of your body.
What does the foot do?
Without too much anatomy, your foot is your toes, your ankle, some bones and three main arches. Now considering that your skeleton is made up of 200 bones and 25 percent of them live in your feet, I would say that it is not a good idea to try and diminish the impact of what good foot health means and how it can impact the rest of your body. These bones of the foot connect to each other to form 33 different joints which create an almost infinite number of movement combinations from the 100 or so muscles that cover the foot. While that may sound impressive, what is generally not thought about much is how the foot tells the rest of the body what to do.
Stand up and try this little test:
Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Clasp both hands together like you are holding a gun and rotate to your right as far as you can. Now take your left foot and tilt it on its side and rotate again to your right. Notice that you couldn’t go as far the second time. Your foot changed limited how much you could rotate at the torso.
What is the foot supposed to do?
“The ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone
The leg bone’s connected to the hip bone
The hip bone’s connected to the back bone
The back bone’s connected to the neck bone
& the neck bone’s connected to the head bone… .”
We can’t forget that the “toe bone connects to the foot bone, and the foot bone connects to the ankle bone.” The song breaks down as simple as it gets and really helps us all understand that the human skeletal system is just one big mechanical puzzle. This puzzle has a bunch of pieces that snap together to create predictable movement relationships. From the smallest toe to the top of the shoulder there is a direct connection for successful movement. Just like modern society, each bone should be able to move on its own and work well on its own for the society to be successful.
As simple as it gets, our foot has the job of absorbing the of earth when we take a step. Your foot tries to reduce the impact your body has to absorb from the ground by spreading it up through your leg. One of the ways that this can be done very efficiently is if your toes can spread apart on impact. This makes a larger surface area to collect force from the ground. Probably the easiest picture to make in your head of things should work, is to think of how a birds claw opens when it walks. Think of the spreading of the toes as away to soften the blow and reduce the amount of stress your body gets.
Sitting and try this little test:
Maybe it is not really a test, but can you move all of your toes together? Can you move each of your toes independently? Maybe even a better question is, when is the last time you tried?
Even though your toes are connected to your feet, they should be able to move on their own. Just like each of your fingers, your toes should be able to bend, extend and move in and out. While your foot should be able to bend, rotate, and twist. That’s it. Mind you, this is all while carrying the load of the body above it and absorbing the impact from the earth below it. Double mind you, that with the 33 joints and 26 bones in the foot, there are 8,683,317,618,811,886,495,518,194,401,280,000,000 different movement patterns that can be made to allow the foot to do it’s job. That is DOUBLE of what the human hand is capable of. Now, I understand our toes aren’t the length of our fingers, but this means pretty much anything you do with your hands, you should be able to do with your feet.
DON”T FORGET THAT YOUR TOES TELL YOUR FEET WHAT TO DO, BEFORE YOUR FOOT CAN TELL THE REST OF YOUR BODY WHAT TO DO.
“The soles of your feet are windows to your soul.”
What else is important to grasp is that for movement to be created across a joint, the brain has to send a message through a nerve to a muscle and tell it what to do. This neural relationship allows our brain and body to communicate and it works in a couple ways. your brain can tell your body to jump if you need to avoid danger or your hand touching a hot handle can tell your body to pull back. So basically nerves act as a highway that allows information to travel from the brain to the body and from the body to the brain.
With that in mind, there are close to 8000 nerve endings in each foot. That is a lot of information that can be passed back and forth from foot to head and head to foot. If there is any kind of interruption in your foots ability to collect or receive information, the rest of your body will suffer. Hence our conversation about footwear finally begins.
First, what is shoe?
Here are the four parts to a shoe and what they do:
UPPER: The upper’s job is to fasten the sole of the shoe on to your foot. Issues with the upper come about, when it is too loose and we must try to use our toes to clench the inside of the shoe to keep it from falling off. This is what happens when you wear a FLIP FLOP. The issue with this is that you lose extensibility of your big toe. This means it is hard for to “lift” your big toe. Without going into much detail if you lack the ability to pull your toe up and get a great stretch through your toe, you wont be able to use your butt real well when you walk.
The “Take-home message” —If you cant stretch your big toe, you cant use your butt.
SOLE: I get the rationale for the design of your shoe, is aide in protection from foreign objects but the issue is that the base of your foot contain a great number of nerves. There is an adage I learned many moons ago, that “if you don’t use it, you will lose it.” This is very much how the nervous system of the human body works. When put thick soles on our shoes, we are effectively not giving our feet any new information. Our nervous system doesn’t need to work as hard, and the brains connection to the foot is dampered. For diabetics the crippling condition that occurs when the nervous system degrades and sensation is lost in the foot, is called peripheral neuropathy. Unfortunately, this condition is not pleasant and leads to immobility. Essentially, when we strap our feet in shoes, we are slowly inducing a similar response. I guess for a picture in your head think about what gloves do to your hands. If you are wearing gloves and you go to touch a handle, you aren’t going to know if it is hot. Your body and brain will not be able to react appropriately by jumping back.
TOE BOX: The toe box of your shoe should be wide. As I mentioned before, your toes are supposed to spread out when your foot hits the ground to absorb the forces of the ground. When the toe box is narrow, your toes cant spread and foot is more rigid when it hits the ground. This makes it more difficult on the rest of the body. If the forces can spread better it will give your whole foot a better was to pass the energy up your leg.
HEEL: The final piece of the shoe is heel. Unfortunately, a raised heel doesn’t serve any great functional or protective piece to our well-being.
First, with regards to function, our body adapts to what we give it. If we are constantly standing on our toes, then the muscles that makes us do that will try and stay that way unless we do something about it. When our calf muscles get tight like this, we cant walk the correct way.
To walk correctly, our hips must be able to travel over our leg and build up enough energy to be FLUNG forward. If our lower muscles are too tight, then this cant happen. Instead of the energy saving elastic reaction, we must use other muscles to “lift’ our leg. This leads to an over-activity of the muscles in the front of your hip, which in turn tells the muscles of the butt that they don’t need to do as much work.
The more that you raise your heel off the ground, the more you have to alter your center of gravity, and the more the door opens for knee, back and neck problems.
The issue is center of gravity and center of mass. Your body will do whatever it needs to and is able to so that it does not fall over. When you put a pair of high heels on, it is as if you are standing on your toes. This means you are putting more weight forward than backward. As a result you need to compensate, by shoving your hips back. The way that your lower back connects to pelvis, creates a situation in which we need to bend excessively to be able to keep our chest up to avoid a face plant. THIS IS NOT NATURAL!!! Avoiding big words, what happens is that your pelvis ends up stuck and doesn’t move the right way. This means two things: PAIN and compensation. Compensation generally means more pain in other places.
It is obvious from the image that when you raise your heels, you arch your back. Unfortunately, this is a big problem for your upper back and neck too. Your spine is a series of contrasting bends. Each bend accommodates the bend adjacent to it. This means that if your lower back has to bend more, so does your upper back and neck. There are all sorts of repercussions to this, worth mentioning is headaches.
Your head obviously sits on your neck. If you saw the movie Jerry McGuire, you are well aware that the human head weighs around ten pounds. The farther forward your head extends from your neck, the more strain that is placed upon those muscles, to keep your head upright. Couple that with added weight from a woman’s hair, and you have recipe for headaches.
As parents, we label is a condition if our children walk on their toes exclusively. We know that this interrupts proper development of the leg, hip, back, and so on. So, why then as adults, so we do this willingly?
If you do a little research, you will find that the high-heel was originated as a way to keep slaves from running away. Think of the irony there. What was once punishment, is now commonplace in closets across the globe! The problem, is either way and in any era, the effects are the same.
So what should you do?
Plain and simple…the opposite.
Minimize your heel height. Minimize the sole of shoe. Maximize the toe box. Maximize the strength of the upper.
Modern footwear is not designed to make you move better. We live in a world that has allowed us to ignore just how important our feet can be to rest of our body in the name of fashion.
FOR THE RECORD, I AM ALL ABOUT MAKING PEOPLE MOVE AND FEEL BETTER. I COULD CARE LESS ABOUT HIGH HEELS.