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Avoiding footwear that cause pain

News » Health and Beauty

Date: 6th, MARCH, 2013

Image: Stella Oyefesobi

The major take-home message from preceding article is that shoes that cause you to change how you stand and walk will eventually lead to muscle imbalances, causing neck, back and joint pains which only get worse with time. This is because wrong choice of footwear disrupts normal alignment of the feet.

High heels are guilty of causing back pain in both men and women. While women may recognise that sky-high stilettos are problematic, men may not know that dress shoes and boots are the same as high heels as far as men’s muscles and joints are concerned. After a few hours in heels, you will probably feel some discomfort, but the real damage — such as chronic knee/back pain and osteoarthritis — may not be apparent for some time.

The angle of high heeled shoes causes you to walk with the back arched and knees slightly bent, forcing your quadriceps to work overtime. This shortens your calf muscles and puts 200 per cent more stress on your kneecaps as you move. All that shifted muscle and joint strain rolls up into your spine.

Meanwhile, eliminating high heels doesn’t mean you should run straight to flat shoes. This is because most flat shoes offer no support for the feet as you walk. According to research, flat shoes cause 25 per cent more impact pressure on your foot with every step than high heels do. Over time, this feels like a hammer driving up your leg thousands of times a day. Lack of padding and arch support in flat shoes causes the ligaments and tendons in the feet to overstretch, creating painful fallen arches and contributing to plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot).

Another set of foot wear to be wary of are the flip-flops, such as those commonly called ‘Dunlop’ or slippers. This is because they offer no cushion for the soles and no support for the toes. You will notice that in order to keep the slippers from falling off as you walk, you must bunch up your toes. This compromises your ability to use the front of your foot to move forward and your hips will overcompensate to keep you moving. The result is lower body fatigue, muscle imbalances along the back of your leg, and an aching back.

This doesn’t mean you have to shop in the orthopaedic section or wear clunky “grandma shoes” all the time. Many attractive pairs of shoes can give your feet what they need to keep your spine and joints healthy.

Choosing the right footwear

Checking for excessive wear on the inner and/or outer parts of the soles will help you make a decision about the right footwear and inserts for your feet and style of movement.

People whose feet do not roll inward as much as they should (underpronate) tend to have high rigid arches that don’t bend well. Look for shoes with plenty of cushioning materials, to help your feet in absorbing the shock. If the arch of your foot flattens and causes excessive stress and pressure on the soft tissues of the foot (overpronate), you probably have relatively flat feet. Try shoes with good arch support to help stabilise your gait and avoid injury.

According to, appropriate shoes are important for jogging and running, due to repetitive nature of this exercise and resultant strain it places on the feet, ankles and knees. Generally, buy running shoes that are half a size larger than your normal shoe size to allow the foot to move and ensure they have adequate arch/ankle support and heel cushioning.

General guidelines

High heels and flip-flops are not the best for anyone, hence should be worn sparingly to avoid injury. Best are shoes that flex with your foot without rolling up in flimsy balls or feeling stiff as boards when you walk. Buy shoes with low heel (not more than an inch of elevation for men or women) and contoured insole to support your arch, with at least half an inch of wiggle room in the toes to allow for proper flexing and gripping as you walk.

Frequently alternate your shoes; don’t wear the same pair every day; discard shoes that have worn-out heels, note your footwear when you have pain and when you don’t. Shoes must feel comfortable in the store without pinching or binding your foot. And, please, don’t count on stretching or “breaking in” your shoes when buying footwear!

By keeping these tips in mind, you can build a collection of comfortable shoes that will keep your back happy. Seems like a small thing, but getting rid of the worst shoes could be just what is needed to help lose that pain for good.

If your footwear and walking manner have caused you to develop joint pain and other spinal-related discomfort, contact a physiotherapist to learn how therapeutic procedures can give you relief without drugs. Individuals are different with various movement patterns and alignment. Physiotherapists are trained to examine each individual and attempt to correct improper habits, alignments and movement patterns.

Article Credit: The Punch News

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