Shoes can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
All too often we focus on how cute or cool our shoes are and never think too much about how they are really affecting the overall health of our body and how we feel. The reality is that type of shoes we wear, both in and out of the gym, can make or literally break us.
It comes down to how you walk. If you take off your shoes and pay attention to your feet as you walk through the room, you will probably realize that you tend to either roll toward the inside of your foot (pronation) or roll to the outside of the foot (supination) as you take each step. You may also be able to determine this by taking a look at the wear and tear on the bottom of many of your shoes. Is the tread more worn on the inside or out? There are not too many of us that walk with a perfectly neutral stride.
If you do pronate or supinate, it is not just affecting your feet. Your ankle and knee joints are also absorbing extra pressure in an uneven manner. This in turn, forces your hips to have to compensate. When the hips have to compensate, the low back can then be affected. You see?
Every thing in the body is connected and every little imbalance can mean big adjustments in other parts of the body.
This is why its vital to wear the right shoes for YOUR feet. There are some really great brands of shoes out there but some of the brands may not be suitable for your foot strike or how your feet are structured.
Think about it like this: If you are a person who tends to roll to the outside of your feet as you walk and you choose a shoe that has the smallest amount of extra lift on the inside of the shoe, it will force you to roll to the outside of the foot even more. This puts the knee in an unfavorable position and causes the muscles on the outside of the lower leg to be stretched and the inside muscles to be contracted. This also can mean that each step is causing the hip and outer glute (butt) muscle to work harder … and it’s cumulative.
Think about how many steps you take in a day. Keep this up over weeks or months and problems are inevitable.
It’s not just about running and walking shoes or gym shoes either. All of us need to pay attention to our shoes. A good example is high heels. If you wear heels often, this can lead to even more issues than just those resulting from pronating or supinating. Heels keep your calf muscles and your achilles (the tendon that connects your heel to your calf) in a constant state of contraction, forcing uneven pressure on your feet, and putting the arch of your foot into an unnatural position. The result can be a slew of issues, including plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis. If these are your go-to office shoes, you should rethink that.
So, now I have you thinking about your shoes but I know it can be difficult to determine what the right shoe is. Fortunately there is help. There are shoe stores (such as Fleet Feet and Team Nashville in our area) where professionals will watch how you walk and then fit you with the appropriate shoe that is right for you. You will pay about $20 more per shoe here, but the other advantage (besides just knowing what shoe is right) is that you can try them out and, if they don’t work, just take them back and they will put you in a different shoe.
I personally have actually run in a pair of shoes about five times before realizing they were causing me plantar fasciitis pain. My store took them back, no questions asked, and put me in a different pair that worked much better.
I know that sometimes its difficult to pass up the inexpensive shoes for the more costly ones. I am guilty. I used to go cheap on shoes. I hated spending $100 or $150 on a pair. Now, though, I will only buy shoes that are the correct ones for my feet and that means not going cheap. After too many experiences with foot, knee and hip pain, I realized the investment is worth the price tag.
So take a look down. Ask your feet how they are doing and really listen. Then talk to your knees and work your way up. Maybe that hip pain you have been having has less to do with the actual hip and more to do with how you are supporting it from the ground up.