Why Your Footwear Matters
While we wouldn't consider wearing the exact same outfit every day of the week, we often give little thought to wearing the same shoes multiple days in a row. Though it may seem cost-effective to have one pair of workout shoes and one pair of dress shoes, under rotating footwear (at the gym and in daily life) places added stress on the body. If you're experiencing lower back, neck, or heel pain, the source of discomfort may be coming from your feet.
Patterns in shoe soles can indicate an imbalance in foot pressure. Worn out heel pads can indicate strain to the spine and lower back. Added pressure on the insoles (pronation) of the foot may be reflected in neck, ankle, knee, and hip pain. On the contrary, wear patterns on the lateral side (supination) of the sole may indicate muscular tension and decreased flexibility, as well as knee and back pain.
Blisters are a good indication that the shoe isn't a proper fit, or it is time for a replacement. A reputable shoe store will help select brands and styles that are best supportive for individual wear patterns to create a balanced gait. Likewise, rotating shoes after a couple of training sessions allows blisters to heal faster due to variances in wear.
Although well-made dress shoes can be expensive, it is important to vary your selection in the workplace too. After prolonged use, leather will warp and lose its shape which impacts the fit. A day or two between wears allows them regain their form. Additionally, wearing high heels daily creates unique stresses on the body.
While high heels may look glamorous, and the extra height may be welcome, they wreck havoc on posture. Maintaining balance while walking in heels (plantar flexion) rotates the pelvis which adds stress to the lumbar vertebrae. Chronic hamstring tension and sciatic nerve impingement are common complaints from frequent high heel use, not to mention headaches, calluses, bunions, stress fractures, and possible nerve damage. Additionally, wearing high heels frequently, or daily, may shorten the Achilles tendon and gastrocnemius muscle fibers. Aside from tendonitis and plantar fasciitis, over time shortened tendon and muscle fibers will increase the risk of improper body mechanics even when flat shoes are worn.
Since long days on our feet may be difficult to avoid, self-care is important. Regularly scheduled massage therapy sessions can help maintain hamstring flexibility and reduce strain on the knees, hips, and lumbar vertebrae. Dorsal flexion and ankle rotation incorporate movement to the Achilles' tendon. Massage therapy also reduces muscular tensions to allow proper posture.
To incorporate self-care techniques at home, roll a tennis or golf ball under the foot to alleviate plantar fasciitis discomfort. Gentle massage along the arch of the foot can alleviate spinal aches, and massaging the ball of the foot under the great toe may reduce neck tension. Of course, frequently altering the style and heel size of footwear can dramatically improve body tension and alignment.