by guest author Zoë Nance, Tri-Athlete and Endurance Coach, Zoë Fitness
It seems like there are so many options and theories out there, how do you make sense of any it?!
There are a few things that I always recommend.
Replace your shoes every 6 months
This next area is where the debate comes in. When we go to a running store a sales person will generally try to sell you a shoe that is ‘specific’ to the way that you walk, whether you are a pronator or a supinator. We naturally do these things as we run/walk/or hike and I feel if we get a shoe for ‘overpronation’ then our foot is then crammed and frozen into an inadequate, biomechanically inefficient state . I would recommend getting fitted for your shoe, more by the size of your toe box versus the length of your foot. If your toes do not have enough room to spread out then you will inadequately use the muscles of your lower leg. You will not be able to stabilize your body weight the way that we were designed to do it. The best thing to do is to buy a neutral shoe with no unnecessary support. This allows your foot to begin to work the way it is supposed to work.
Here is where I really cause the debate.
We should, in most cases, not wear insoles. I know, they were probably prescribed by a MD or a DC. Somebody who noticed you had a limb length discrepancy, or someone you went to because you were having pain. In my opinion, this is even worse than wearing a shoe that forces you into pronation or supination. Yes, this may have relieved your symptoms but it fails to address the root problem, which in most cases is a muscular imbalance of the lower leg, but may even stem from somewhere as high up on the chain as your cervical spine.
So how do you overcome the need for insoles? Now granted, there will be some cases where a shoe insert is the best thing for you. However, here are some simple things you can do. Begin to go without shoes. Slowly begin to train your foot to be open and neutral while you’re in your home. Gradually increase the duration and frequency that you are walking barefoot in your house. Like any new workout program you may develop some sore muscles because of it. Make sure your shoes are fitted properly in the toe box.
If you’re a runner begin to gradually increase the duration and frequency that you are running in a neutral shoe. Begin running very small distances barefoot. Make sure when you are running barefoot you are on a safe surface like a grassy field, soft track or personal treadmill. Do not do too much too soon when beginning these techniques as they will not be safe for you, this is something that needs to be worked into gradually to avoid injury, as with all exercise programs. You will begin to notice that when running barefoot, it hurts when you don’t land correctly and your body will begin to correct itself to a form that is more natural. Our bodies were not originally made to run with shoes on, for thousands of years we were running barefoot.
It is important to begin running biomechanically efficient, by decreasing your stride length and increasing your foot strikes to about 180 per minute. There is some variance on foot strikes per minute based on the size of your shoe. By improving these two techniques you will automatically begin to use your body in a more natural way. Shortening your stride will not only allow your body to land mid foot but it will allow your hips to stay in a more neutral position. In my opinion, our bodies were meant to land mid-foot, that is why we have extra padding on our heels and forefoot, and then meant to push off our toe box forward to more easily help us move through space, also engaging the power muscles of our lower leg.
How do I get to the root of the problem of my foot pain, knee pain, hip pain, etc? You find a professional who can do an assessment for you. I recommend Muscle Activation. Muscle Activation is a company of specialists and jump start professionals who are qualified to provide a systematic approach to checks and balances to assess.