Proper Footwear - Yes it is important! | Total Performance Physical Therapy

Proper Footwear – Yes it is important!

January 16, 2012

Most of us are overwhelmed by the amount of footwear choices on the market today, and why shouldn’t you be there are entire stores with just sneakers!  Choosing the right sneakers can be the most daunting task, one that a lot of people have just given up on and have succumb to advertising pressure as opposed to choosing the correct shoe for your foot.

This blog is going to attempt to simplify the art of buying the proper sneakers.  This is by no means full proof and ideally you should consult a physical therapist before you make a purchase such as sneakers as they will be able to guide you more specifically into the right shoe wear.  This blog will only give you a general idea of the footwear you should be wearing.

Right off the bat let me say that Nike does not make the best shoe on the market.  Nike has the best marketing team in the business, no one can argue that.  If you want to know how to brand and market a business, look at Nike.  But please don’t look at them for footwear.  Now some people swear that Nike makes the best shoes and I am not going to argue with them.  If you run in them and you have no pain and they feel comfortable, then by all means continue.  However, biomechanically they are generally not the best for your feet.

Your feet are essentially designed to do 2 things; shock absorb and act as a rigid lever so they can push your body off the ground.  In a nutshell, this is what sneakers are designed to do too.  Sneakers that are stability shoes are designed to help your foot act more like a rigid lever and sneakers that are more for cushion are designed to help you with shock absorption.  How can you tell what shoe is right for you?

There is a quick and dirty way, some people fall nicely into these categories and others are more ambiguous.  There are roughly 2 types of feet; high arched and flat foot.  People with flat feet are able to shock absorb very well, therefore, they are looking for a shoe with more stability.  People with high arch feet have very good rigid levers but they are just lacking shock absorption.  Therefore a shoe that is more of a cushion shock absorbing shoe is better for them.  Again, that is an oversimplification but it beats buying shoes without any knowledge, which is what I usually see walk into my clinic.  For more information on physical therapy services head to www.totalperformancept.com.

How can you tell by looking at a shoe what it is designed to do?  If you turn a shoe over, generally the bottom of the shoe will be able to tell you what that shoe is designed to do.  A shoe that has a “J” curve on the bottom is a more shock absorbing shoe, designed for those people with high arches.  You can see the “J” if you place your finger on the heel of the shoe in the middle, then draw a straight line up to the top.  You will notice that the shoe curves off in a “J”-like fashion.  On the flip side if you turn the bottom of the shoe over and place a point in the middle of the heel of the shoe and draw a straight line up to the top and notice no curve, that shoe is more of a stability shoe designed to help the person’s foot become more of a rigid lever.

In the begining I stated that Nike’s were generally bad, only in the fact that most of their shoes were designed to look good and they all act as shock absorbers so when you put them on for the 2 minutes in the store they feel great.  Unfortunately they just don’t feel so great after an intense workout.  Some of the best shoes for either type of foot are Brooks, New Balance, Saucony and Asics.  All of these brands have very good shock absorbing shoes and stability shoes.  Most of these brands also come in wide widths which alot of people actually need.

The final point I will make on foot wear is on the growing trend of bare foot shoes.  These are not at all good for your body.  I have heard the arguments, some of which are we are born with bare feet and there are cultures that walk around and run in bare feet and they are fast so we should try to emulate them.  These arguments are wrong, plain and simple.  Most people’s feet do not function properly.  For example, let’s say you are an overweight individual.  The amount of excess weight you carry around presses down on the ligments, muscles and tendons in your feet.  If you were to wear a pair of barefoot shoes, you would add increased stress to these structures that are already under a tremendous amount of stress because of your weight.  You would begin altering the way you walked (without you knowing it) creating pain in your ankles, knees, hips and back.  Shoes are designed to help support you, to help the joints and ligaments in your feet.  I have met very few individuals that should ever wear bare feet shoes so chances are you shouldn’t either.

Even though this article tries to sum up shoe wear, it is not an easy answer and the amount of shoes and shoe patterns can still be daunting when you enter a shoe store.  If you seek a physical therapist’s help or are currently in physical therapy, then ask your therapist.  They will be able to help you decide which shoe is the best for you to wear.

For more information on physical therapy services head to www.totalperformancept.com.