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Barefoot Running

Barefoot running is a popular and growing trend that is taking over the running and jogging community by storm. Barefoot running is exactly what it sounds like, running without shoes. However, this doesn’t just affect whether or not you need to buy new shoes, but it also affects the motion of your feet and requires an entirely different workout.

When you run with shoes on, most of the time you land on your heels, roll over the ball of your foot, and then push off with your toes. However, in barefoot running, you actually land on the front part of your feet and not your heels. The impact shifts from the heels to the front of the feet, and barefoot runners shorten their strides to create softer landings.

Barefoot running has a lot of advantages. Landing on the front of your foot with a reduced stride lessens the stress and pressure placed on the ankles and feet, which lessens the chance of injury. It also strengthens the muscles in your feet and muscles in the ankles and lower legs that are not usually worked out. Your balance is also improved and there is a greater sensory input from your feet to the rest of the body, making your motions and posture less stressful on the body. Ironically enough, studies have shown that countries with large populations of people who do not wear shoes actually have a much lower number of those suffering from foot and ankle injuries.

Despite this, many people are still skeptical about barefoot running, and for good reason. There are some drawbacks to the unique exercise, one of the most obvious being the complete lack of protection of your feet from objects while running. Bruises, scrapes, cuts, and sometimes blisters can form on runners’ feet.  Landing on the front of the feet can also cause Achilles tendonitis, or worse yet, a rip or rupture of the Achilles tendon.

But there are a lot of ways to make barefoot running safe and enjoyable. First off, make a slow transition from your normal running routine to barefoot running, do not just dive right into it one day. Once your feet begin to adjust, slowly move from jogging to running and gradually increase the distance. It is also recommended to start out on a surface that does not contain many sharp or dangerous objects, as your feet are now unprotected. Minimalist running shoes are also another great option to get you into barefoot running and provide the perfect middle ground for those looking to get into the sport.


Flat Feet

Flat feet is a foot condition in which the arch of the foot either drops or is never developed. While it is common in babies and small children, it can become a problem if the arch never develops. For adults, the development of flat feet can be brought upon by injury, or may even be a result of pregnancy due to the increased elasticity; however, in adults the flat footedness is usually permanent.

The wet footprint test can be an indicator to diagnosing flat feet. In this test, the individual would place a flat foot on a surface in order to show a footprint. If there is no indentation or indication of an arch, that person may have flat feet. In all cases, it is best to consult a podiatrist if flat feet is suspected or noticed.

Once flat feet has been diagnosed, it can be treated by walking barefoot in beach-like terrain, or wearing insoles. There are two types of flat feet; one being rigid, where the feet appear to have no arch even when the person is not standing, and the other being flexible where the person appears to have an arch while not standing, but once standing the arch goes away. In the case of flexible flat feet, unless there is pain caused by the condition, there is no need for treatment. However, if it causes pain or in the case of rigid flat feet, exercises and orthotic insoles may be prescribed in order to help the arches develop.

In some cases when the condition is severe and all other methods have been exhausted surgery may be required but this is normally avoided due to a lengthy recovery time and high cost.


Effect of High-Heels on the Feet

Women have been wearing various kinds of high-heels for hundreds of years, mostly for aesthetic reasons. Shoes with heels make their wearer appear to be taller and to have longer and thinner legs, and change the wearer’s gait and posture. High-heels’ association with femininity have kept them popular over the years, but there are definite health problems caused by wearing high-heels too frequently.

High heels also limit the motion of the ankle joints as well when they are worn. The ankle is a very important joint in the body when it comes to walking. These joints have a great deal of weight put on them because of their location. This is why it is so important to keep them as healthy as possible. The main tendon in the ankle is the Achilles tendon. Studies have shown that wearing high heels often causes the calf muscle and Achilles tendon to shorten, and stiffens the Achilles tendon as well, which can cause problems when shoes without heels are worn.

By forcing the toes into a small toe box, and putting a great deal of pressure on the ball of the foot, high-heels can cause or worsen many foot problems, such as corns, hammertoe, bunions, Morton’s neuroma and plantar fasciitis. 

Wearing high-heels regularly, especially very high ones, can have long term negative effects on many other parts of the body, as well as the feet. One of the most important joints in the entire body, the knees, can be affected by wearing high heels. Wearing high heels causes the knees to stay bent at all times. It also causes them to bend slightly inward as well. Many doctors believe that constantly walking like this is the reason that women are so much more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis later in life. High-heels also cause increased stress on the knees by limiting the natural motion of the foot during walking.

The back may also be negatively affected by high heels because this shoe style causes the back to go out of alignment. This affects the spine’s ability to absorb shock, and can cause continued pain in the back if high heels are worn constantly. High-heels also compress the vertebrae of the lower back, and can cause overuse of the muscles in the lower back.

This is not to say that high heels should never be worn. They will not cause serious problems if they are worn only occasionally. However, they should not be worn every day in order to avoid long term physical health problems to the feet, knees, ankles and back.


Working on Your Feet

When your feet are overworked your whole body can be affected. Thus, taking care of your feet is a must for overall good health. Standing on the feet all day can cause bunions, callouses and plantar warts. These are all very painful conditions that can be avoided with proper foot care. Good shoe choices and proper posture both contribute to the health of your feet.

Always choose a negative heeled shoe that places the heel slightly lower than the ball of the foot. Shoes designed in this fashion are the best for foot health. And most definitely purchase your shoes from a reputable manufacturer who puts foot health at the forefront of their goals. Having a job that keeps you on your feet all day makes it an especially a good idea to spend the extra money on a good pair of shoes.

The feet were not designed to be enclosed for hours on end. In fact, incorporating some "barefoot" time into your daily routine is not a bad idea to improve overall foot health. There are some other simple things that you can do to help alleviate pain and pressure on the feet from standing all day.

First of all, you can perform some simple foot exercises and even some common yoga moves to improve the function of your feet. A foot work out that incorporates mechanically correct movements will stimulate the blood flow and the muscles of the foot. Also, yoga exercises that stretch the foot out flat on the floor are very beneficial for those who work on their feet, and can help stretch and relax the calf muscles and Achilles tendon. These exercises may be performed every day during your daily routine, perhaps even while you are sitting in your vehicle or standing in line at the grocery store.

If you spend a lot of time on your feet every day, you know what it can be like to have foot pain, and you may begin to think that foot pain is inevitable. It doesn't have to be. Foot stretches and proper footwear can do miracles in alleviating foot pain and preventing further foot problems.

With just a little effort and some education on the proper foot exercises, you can keep your feet healthy and feeling good for years to come. If your feet hurt your whole body will feel the effects over time. Start taking better care of your feet today. They will love you for it!


2013
April - May - June

Dr. Mayer Salama and Dr. Daniel Salama
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