9 Tips for Happy Feet and Healthy Backs
Walking is really a controlled falling forward. Do you “fall forward” safely and effectively? It will largely depend on the shoes you wear. Your shoes are your contact with the ground and provide support for your body. Good support facilitates good posture, and good posture keeps the spine healthy – and vice versa. But our shoes are often less than ideal in doing their main job. We often go for the way they look more than whether they are actually good for us, whether we are women or men, and can develop serious health issues as a result.
Here are some simple things you can do to help keep your feet – and the rest of you – in good shape:
- Don’t skimp on quality when buying shoes. This one item of your wardrobe will affect your musculoskeletal health more than all of the others combined. Your back won’t tell the difference between a £3.00 T-shirt or one that costs £300, but it will thank you for a shoe built well, and out of decent, breathable material. Look for a shoe that is well shaped inside and where you can clearly see the support for the inner and outer arches, as well as for the ball of the foot.
- When buying a shoe, test whether the sole flexes easily in the middle. If it doesn’t, put it straight back on the shelf! You need to be able to walk, not ski or swat flies with your feet. Please do this for your child, too – so many shoes for kids are just atrocious in this respect. No matter if they glow in the dark or play tunes while jumping, if they are as stiff as a plank of wood, they are no good for your kids.
- Ladies! You probably know you should avoid sky-scraper heels. But I suggest you also stay away from Uggs-style boots. They may be super-comfortable and warm, but the way most women walk in them is just plain Uggly. Their feet turn in (pronate) and they end up shuffling around on the inside of the boot rather than the sole itself, like a bag lady. I think most men would agree – NOT sexy. Don’t believe me? Winter’s on its way, so keep your eyes peeled for the Ugg-walk! If you already have Uggs, keep them for watching a movie on a cold winter’s day.
- If your shoes hurt, throw them away. Seriously. Even if they are Manolos – well, in this case, sell them on eBay, or frame them as unusual artwork. Life is too short to hobble around while you could be breezily striding through the street. The pain from wearing the wrong shoes can be felt not only in your feet, but throughout your body, too. High heels, for instance, will kill your lower back as you have to thrust your weight back to keep yourself upright. And if you run in worn-out, ill-fitting trainers, you are almost certain to develop unpleasant knee, shin or hip issues.
- Get regular foot massage. If you’ve never had your feet properly rubbed, you have been missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures. Thai is best (I tend to think that about food, too!). I believe that secretly, every foot’s idea of heaven is a skilled Thai massage therapist, whether the foot knows it or not. Many are not only able to give you the foot-rub of the year, they also adjust your feet, much like a chiropractor would adjust your back, by gently clicking and twisting your toes and main joints.
- If you run or do high-impact sports, have your gait analysed before you buy your shoes. Many outlets provide this service free of charge. You will be asked to run on a treadmill in various shoes while filmed from the rear, and then watch the video to see how your foot strikes the ground. You will then be given the appropriate shoe for your gait type. Very educational!
- Spend a chunk of time barefoot every day (you can keep socks on if it’s cold), and walk on uneven surfaces to exercise your feet. You can also use a tennis or a golf ball to roll under your foot to relieve pressure and tension – a quick and free massage that will wake you up, too!
- Do yoga – down-dogs, up-dogs, lunges, warriors… just about any pose will work! Yoga is done barefoot, and exercises most of the body’s muscles and joints, including your feet. It will also relieve any troubles caused by wearing the wrong shoes, including the most common lower back pain.
- Avoid wearing the same shoes every day. Dan Husom, Schuler Shoes Board Certified Pedorthist says: “The repetitive stresses of wearing the same shoe day after day, hour after hour can become harmful to the feet. By rotating in a different style shoe (dress shoe, athletic shoe, sandal, etc) gives foot and leg muscles a chance to rest. Whatever shoe or shoes you do choose, make sure that they fit properly, not squeezing the toes and allowing for active toe motion”.
Wishing you happy feet, and a happy body!