Friends don’t let friends wear sandals


Note: this excellent post was created by Katie Phillips, one of the terrific therapists in our clinic. And a special shout out to her husband for helping with the photos and videos!


At Egoscue Austin, we’ve been thinking a lot about your feet.  No, not about your nail polish or the length of your toenails–we’re thinking about foot function and position.  Twenty-five percent of the bones of the human body are in the foot.  The foot is capable of the same amount of mobility as the hand, it’s just that most of us don’t utilize all this potential.  


Look for more posts in the future on feet, like getting the most out of your Foot Circles & Point/Flexes, and additional footwear tips.  For today, we will talk about sandals or flip-flops.  

Flip-flops are the go-to shoe for many Austinites.  They are comfortable, relatively inexpensive, and convenient.  However, they can wreak havoc on the body.  Why?  To keep the thing from flip-flopping right off your foot you have to use all kinds of accessory muscles and joints.  There are the two main problems.  First, the toes have to clench and grab to hold the flip flop on.  This toe grabbing can cause symptoms like plantar fasciitis and hammertoes.   The second problem is that if the back leg is not pushing off with the toes, it is also not extending at the hip joint.  Hip joint extension is where we get to utilize our powerful glute muscles to help stabilize the pelvis and drive the leg forward into the next step.  Without proper hip extension power, the low back, hip, knees, ankles, and feet have to twist and rotate to swing the back leg around to the front.  The torque at the back, hip, and all the joints below leads to pain in these areas.

While walking, it is important for the toes to spread apart and push off, helping to extend the hip, which propels the leg forward into the next step.  Think about this the next time you walk.  And if you aren’t already, make walking a part of your daily activity intake.   


Take a look at this video of walking in flip flops.  Notice how the back leg never gets fully extended because that would cause the shoe to fall of.  This person can not generate power from their glutes and hamstrings to push off and move the body forward effectively.  They are essentially falling forward onto their front leg.  It’s not hard to imagine how this could lead to joint pain.

 

 

By contrast, wearing minimal shoes that fasten around the heel allow for greater extension and power generation at the hip joint.  Also, the toes can spread and create an even, stable base to push off the ground and drive the leg forward into the next step. 


So what to wear when you walk?  Where it is safe, barefoot is best.  If you want to protect your feet but be as bare as possible, choose shoes with a flat, thin, and flexible sole that also has backing on the heel.  The binding on the heel will keep the shoe on your foot and free the toes to fulfill their important push-off function.  The ability to get good toe push-off and hip extension equals happy feet, ankles, knees, hips and back.


In the photo below, look at how the toes have to grab to keep the flip flop on the foot.  

FullSizeRender.jpg


And here, look at the toe spread. This is a happy foot!


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If you would like specific recommendations for footwear please feel free to contact us here at the clinic 512-527-0030 or austin@egoscue.com.  Happy walking!

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