August Article 2014
Stretching Your Feet
Debilitating foot pain is a problem for many people. But just as stretching the torso can help alleviate back pain, stretching the feet can also mend existing problems and prevent future ones.
The feet carry the entire weight of the human body all day and can get easily strained from overexertion. Persistent sharp pain and cramping in the feet are common problems. Foot pain and problems can be due to any number of causes, and in many cases pain may be eased without medication or doctor visits; however, it is always a good idea to rule out any serious medical issues first with a physician.
Stretching may help relax the feet and alleviate pain at any time, but it is especially important before heavy aerobic exercise to avoid painful cramps or straining muscles in the feet. Stretches should be performed slowly and deliberately without forceful pulling. The stretch should be held for several seconds, and then relaxed.
A great way to stretch out and loosen up the foot muscles while sitting is to cross one leg over the other and pull the toes carefully back without overextending. Start by resting the left ankle on the right knee. With the left hand, gently flex the left foot by pulling back on the toes. Do not pull too hard, just hard enough to feel the stretch in the arch of the foot. Then point the toes of the left foot as far as you can. Rotate the motion of pointing with pulling back on the toes. This should relax and stretch the muscles on the bottom and the top of the foot. Doing this stretch ten to twenty times should bring relief. Repeat the whole process for the other foot by resting the right ankle on the left knee.
A stretch that focuses on the often injured Achilles tendon involves standing, facing a wall, with your arms out and hands flat against the wall. Step back with one foot, keeping it flat against the floor. Move the other leg forward and lean toward the wall. You should feel a stretch through the back of your leg and your Achilles tendon, but do not push yourself too much. Stop when you feel the stretching sensation and hold for 30 seconds. Ten repetitions may be done for each foot.
Stretching the feet is important for athletes or those performing aerobic exercise, but it can also help anyone with foot pain caused by poor footwear, plantar fasciitis, or long hours standing and walking. Individuals who tend to their feet by regular stretching every day should be able to minimize foot pain and prevent new problems from arising.
Choosing the Right Running Shoe for Your Foot Type
While running seems like a simple activity, it is actually a complicated movement that puts a lot of stress on the joints, bones and ligaments of the body. Consequently, choosing the right shoe is an important step in increasing performance and decreasing injury risk. You should select running shoes based on your foot type. While other considerations are important, such as trail versus road shoes, your foot type dictates the amount of cushioning, stability and motion control you need. The best way to determine your foot type is to visit a local specialty running shop. Professionals there can measure your arch type, stride and gait and summarize your shoe needs for future reference.
Running shoe design is based on the idea of pronation. Pronation is the natural rolling of your ankle from outside to inside during foot strike. In other words, proper running mechanics involve striking the ground on the outside of your heel and rolling toward your big toe before pushing off again. Pronation is a good thing: it helps your lower extremities absorb shock and store energy. Neutral runners who pronate correctly do not depend on their shoes to correct their form. Neutral runners can select from a large variety of shoes, even minimal or barefoot models. However, runners with problematic foot arches or incorrect form may pronate too much or too little and require specific qualities from their running shoes.
Overpronators run with excessive ankle rolling. Even when standing, severe overpronators exhibit ankles that angle inward. They also tend to have flat feet or bowed legs. Overpronation can cause a plethora of injuries, especially in the knees, ankles and Achilles tendons. If you overpronate, you should select a shoe with extra stability and motion-control. Motion-control shoes are firm and straight; they do not curve at the tip. The lack of flexibility along the midsole prevents the foot from rolling too far inward during your foot strike.
Underpronation, also called supination, is less common than overpronation. Unlike overpronators, underpronators have inflexible feet and high arches. When they land, their feet are unable to roll inward. While this places less rotational stress on the ankles and knees, it prevents any kind of shock absorptions. This additional force can result in fractures, ligament tears and muscle strains as the legs compensate for the impact. Underpronators require shoes with increased cushioning and flexibility. If you underpronate, stability or motion-control shoes may compound the problem by further preventing pronation.
Effect of High-Heels on the Feet
Women have been wearing various kinds of high-heels for hundreds of years, mostly for aesthetic reasons. Shoes with heels make their wearer appear to be taller and to have longer and thinner legs, and change the wearer’s gait and posture. High-heels’ association with femininity have kept them popular over the years, but there are definite health problems caused by wearing high-heels too frequently.
High heels also limit the motion of the ankle joints as well when they are worn. The ankle is a very important joint in the body when it comes to walking. These joints have a great deal of weight put on them because of their location. This is why it is so important to keep them as healthy as possible. The main tendon in the ankle is the Achilles tendon. Studies have shown that wearing high heels often causes the calf muscle and Achilles tendon to shorten, and stiffens the Achilles tendon as well, which can cause problems when shoes without heels are worn.
By forcing the toes into a small toe box, and putting a great deal of pressure on the ball of the foot, high-heels can cause or worsen many foot problems, such as corns, hammertoe, bunions, Morton’s neuroma and plantar fasciitis.
Wearing high-heels regularly, especially very high ones, can have long term negative effects on many other parts of the body, as well as the feet. One of the most important joints in the entire body, the knees, can be affected by wearing high heels. Wearing high heels causes the knees to stay bent at all times. It also causes them to bend slightly inward as well. Many doctors believe that constantly walking like this is the reason that women are so much more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis later in life. High-heels also cause increased stress on the knees by limiting the natural motion of the foot during walking.
The back may also be negatively affected by high heels because this shoe style causes the back to go out of alignment. This affects the spine’s ability to absorb shock, and can cause continued pain in the back if high heels are worn constantly. High-heels also compress the vertebrae of the lower back, and can cause overuse of the muscles in the lower back.
This is not to say that high heels should never be worn. They will not cause serious problems if they are worn only occasionally. However, they should not be worn every day in order to avoid long term physical health problems to the feet, knees, ankles and back.
Flip-flops and Feet
Flip-flops are some of the most comfortable and convenient kinds of shoes there are. They let you freely move your toes, aren't constrictive, and allow your feet to breathe. They can also be worn with almost any attire, and match most clothing styles. Unfortunately, wearing flip-flops can also be very dangerous. These sorts of shoes can harm your feet in more ways than you may think.
Although they are comfortable, constant flip-flop use can lead to problems with the ankles, hips, and lower back if worn on a long-term basis. This is because people walk much differently in flip-flops than they do in other shoes like sneakers. Their natural gait is being forced to change, throwing the body off and causing stress to different parts of the body. Flip-flops can also lead to problems in the arches of your feet, and pain in the balls of your feet. There is little to no support provided by flip-flops, so some parts of the foot undergo much more stress than normal.
Flip-flops can cause more obvious short term problems as well, like ankle sprains and frequent blisters. Because these shoes are relatively weak and can easily bend while walking, wearers are far more likely to trip and hurt their ankles. Flip-flops can also cause bad blisters, because their straps are constantly rubbing up against the foot. Additionally, someone wearing flip-flops is more prone to infections, due to the openness of the shoe. It very easy to scrape and cut your foot when wearing flip-flops because they offer little protection for the foot. If left untreated and uncovered, these same cuts can get dirtied and infected as flip-flops wearers walk around.
In order to avoid this, make sure to get a pair of flip-flops that will keep your feet as safe as possible. When looking to purchase flip-flops, you should check that the actual sole is sturdy and firm. The flip-flops are too floppy if the sole droops and wiggles a great deal when lifted off the floor. These will offer very little support, and may lead to other problems like tripping.
If you only purchase flip-flops made of high quality, sturdy materials, you won't have to worry about this. Although they will cost a little more, flip-flops made of these materials will last longer, and will protect your feet more so than a cheap pair of flip-flops. Also, make sure to buy from a reliable brand name. You can often find relatively cheap shoes from these companies, and once you have bought them you know they will last.
You can still wear your favorite flip-flops, just avoid wearing them every day of the week, or for extended periods of time. It is also recommended that you replace flip-flops every three or four months, in order to be sure that they provide maximum protection to your feet.