How Your Shoe Choice Affects More Than Just Foot Health
  • October 23, 2016
  • A theme has inadvertently arisen in my last several posts: feet. First I shared newfound knowledge on neuromas. Then I gave accolades to acupuncture for the relief it brought to my feet. But just as it may take a village to raise a child, it takes a number of approaches to resolve the many issues with my bipedal body.

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    This isn’t just about my feet, though. It’s also about yours. And I have thought of all of you as I have recently been introduced to the works of Biomechanist Katy Bowman, MS. Bowman is the founder of Nutritious Movement, a website that features a blog and podcasts all about incorporating healthy movement into our daily lives. She is also the author of a number of books. Recently I finished “Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief” which got me thinking about new ways that I can improve my foot health and, consequently, whole body health as well.

    Many an “ah-ha!” moment was had as I was reading the book. Before I give you more of the lowdown, let’s do an experiment. Stand up. For real, step away from your desk or get off of the couch or out of bed for just a few moments. Standing evenly on your feet, sans socks, see if you can raise each toe, independent of the others. If your tootsies are anything like mine the first time I tried, you may find yourself laughing incredulously, thinking “Nah, toes do not move of their own accord.” But Bowman says they do; just as we can lift each finger independently, our toes were meant to do the same.

    Idolizing the likes of Carrie Bradshaw, many of us have been strutting down the street or standing in our work places each day in hot high heels. Stilettos, heeled boots and wedges may make us feel sexy (and taller!) but it is wreaking havoc on our bodies, beginning with the 26 bones and 33 joints in our feet. Those very bones are connected to our knee bones and our hip bones, so those cute shoes are not just affecting our feet, but the health of our whole bodies.

    This is why Bowman boldly calls positive heeled shoes – shoes with any height of heel – the cigarettes of today. I wanted to argue this claim with her but the more I read, the less ground I had to stand on. And now I am taking a good hard look at my sandals and boots and easy-to-throw-on flip-flops, pondering how they are all affecting the joints and muscles.

    In the chapter “Shoe Science,” Bowman breaks down shoes into four parts, explaining what each part should do to support optimal health. First is the sole. A good sole should be rather malleable and thin, allowing the “intrinsic foot musculature” to move more naturally. The upper part of the shoe is what connects the sole to your foot. When choosing a new pair of shoes, ask yourself, “Do my toes have to grip in order for the shoe to stay on?” (like in a flip-flop). If the answer is yes, reconsider that purchase. Moving on to the toe box, a lust for fashion often has us squeezing into pointy-toed shoes. A healthier choice, though, is a shoe that allows you to spread your toes comfortably. Finally, the heel. My new favorite biomechanist advices us to buy flats. Period.

    A declared typhoon has me home on this rainy day, but I am happily spending my time searching the internet for better shoes. For more of your own nutritious movement, check out Etsy, Havaianas, Unshoes,  Earth Runners, and Soft Star Shoes.

    As I am making my peace with this notion of walking around flat-footed, I have also begun doing exercises to strengthen the muscles in my feet. Kate Galliett at Fit For Real Life has an informative article and and instructional video about how to put your feet through a workout.

    So, if you want to put your best foot forward, it is time to take an honest look in your closet. And it’s time to take your feet to the foot gym, friends.

    About Jamie Bacigalupo

    Having first traveled from her hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to live in Quito, Ecuador, she decided to give the East a run and is now a resident of Shenzhen, China. She earned her degree in Communication Arts/Literature and Communication and Secondary Education from Gustavus Adolphus College and is enthusiastically exploring Asia by teaching abroad. She digs hanging out with her students by weekday, and relishes finding new restaurants to eat authentic Chinese food and finding new hiking paths on the weekends. In addition to sticking her nose in a book to recover from an intense workday, Jamie also loves exploring all manner of flavors in the kitchen, especially when she is whipping up some recipes for her friends and family.