Four years ago I started wearing some interesting looking, if not downright ugly, shoes and I’ve never been happier with my choice of footwear.
I used to have collapsed arches and pronated ankles, especially on my left side. And though doctors and foot specialists like to say that there is nothing you can do to correct these problems, I chose not to buy their stories and then set out to prove them completely wrong.
Correcting my foot and ankle alignment has been a process. In fact, it’s something I’ve worked on for nearly five years.
My unusual choice in footwear came about as a result of increasing my knowledge of the bones of my feet and ankles, and how they are actually supposed to work and align. This new knowledge, and resulting footwear choice, was a major catalyst for the resulting big change in my body.
During my first thirty-one years of life it never occurred to me just how strong an impact my shoe choice had on my body. Here’s a little background on your feet to help you understand how shoes interact with and alter your body.
Each of your feet has 26 bones and 56 ligaments. When you walk, the bones of your feet are designed to move. When working perfectly, your foot bones actually wind up, creating a spiral, and then unwind.
This winding and unwinding of your foot bones happens quickly with every step you take, and it’s called your foot spiral.
Your foot spiral has a direct relationship, not just with your ankles, but also with your knees, SI joint and low back. I know it may sound extreme to say, but the health of your feet affects the health of your body.
If you took all the skin and muscles off your feet, you would discover that your metatarsals, the bones that make up your toes, have a strong resemblance to your fingers.
Have you ever seen someone’s arm and hand right after they’ve had a cast removed?
The muscles in the arm and hand have atrophied while they were in the cast for an extended period of time. They no longer have a strong grip.
But, just because the arm is currently weak and atrophied, it doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way forever. They’ll be able to regain their strength and movement once the arm is freed from the cast and they resume daily movement and some specific exercises.
What do you think rigid shoes, or high heels, do to your feet?
Wearing rigid shoes and high heels is like wearing little casts on your feet. They block your foot spiral and prevent the muscles of your feet from working.
Eventually the foot muscles atrophy and you lose the healthy tension of your plantar fascia. This causes your bones to collapse and leads to fallen arches.
The foot spiral sets off a domino effect of spirals that happen throughout the body when you walk. If you are blocking your foot spiral with your shoes, you’re throwing off the domino effect and this can show up as knee, low back or SI (sacro-illiac) pain and/or problems.[info]
Take a second and move your hands. Next move your feet. Could you articulate your feet even a little bit or was your foot more like a stiff flipper at the end of your leg?[/info]
Some people even go to extremes, such as having surgery to fix problems that show up as a result of their lost foot spiral. But, if they never correct their foot spiral problem, they might find the problems resurfacing in the same area, or just moving to another part of their body.
The beauty of Vibram Five Finger shoes is that they allowed me to feel what my feet and ankles were doing and, because the shoes are flexible, they also allowed me to correct my foot alignment.
Now I’m not saying that making these changes has been a piece of cake. It is an effort! And changing your shoes alone isn’t enough.
To make lasting changes in your foot and ankle alignment, you have to learn what your ideal alignment feels like. You’ll want assistance from someone familiar with the concept to help you find your ideal alignment as well. When you do first find it, you’ll likely think it feels pretty weird at first. I know it did for me!
Once you learn your alignment, there are specific exercises you can do, depending on what you’ve got going on with your feet and ankles, that will allow you to permanently correct many foot and body problems that stem from poor shoes and bad alignment.
If you’re serious about fixing problems that stem from foot-spiral issues, it takes a consistent commitment to practicing foot alignment exercises to achieve lasting change. A key for me was practicing my ideal alignment throughout my day, and most especially in my Pilates sessions.
In the beginning, I did have to slow down a lot in order to maintain my foot alignment, but my results have been better than I previously imagined possible, and much better than my doctor suggested I could ever achieve!
I told Will, an instructor at the studio who leads runs, that I’m ready to run sprints. I loved running sprints when I was a kid and I have a feeling that now, with my feet and glutes in working order, I’ll run even faster than I did as a kid.
I’ll let you know how it goes!
See you in the studio,