I was out running yesterday, enjoying the warmer weather and trying to rack up my training miles for the Fairfield Half Marathon. I ran past another runner and my eyes were drawn to her fluorescent pink sneakers which, upon closer examination, I noticed were no ordinary sneakers but those with 5 toes! Really just a thin covering of her feet. I noticed how she gingerly ran over a gravel driveway and it got me wondering about the benefits of these skin-like running shoes and why they have become so popular. After much research online, I discovered that, not surprisingly, there are opposing opinions on the merits of barefoot running and minimalist shoes. Those in favor of barefoot running say that it is a much more natural way to run, the way our bodies were designed to run. The barefoot runner tends to land more on the mid-foot than with a heel strike, resulting in less impact on the heel and potentially fewer heel injuries than with running shoes. Podiatrists and the American Podiatric Medical Association on the other hand feel that barefoot running can cause injuries ranging from Achilles tendonitis to severe bruising of the soft tissue of the foot from landing on a rock. The argument from both sides is that there are not enough studies to support the merits of barefoot running or the merits of running in sneakers. Those against barefoot running argue that the few studies that have been conducted were sponsored by Vibram and Nike and are therefore skewed. One thing that both sides agree on is that whether you run barefoot or in sneakers, you should adjust your form accordingly to prevent injuries.
Barefoot running has enjoyed a lot of media coverage in recent years, especially since the launch of the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall which chronicals the author’s quest to answer the question “Why does my foot hurt?” In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world's greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong. McDougall points out that 50-80% of runners in running shoes are injured every year.
Dr. Doug Richie, a Sports Podiatrist warns that running barefoot significantly changes your running style and unless you are conditioned and trained to run differently, you are likely to experience injuries.
The debate is likely to continue and heat up again now that running season is in full swing again with the warmer weather. Whatever your choice, it’s always a good idea to consult with a physician before embarking on something new and different!
If your golf swing is suddenly out of whack, you might be unconciously compensating for pain in your feet. The three most common foot problems that could be ruining your game are Arthritis, Heel Pain and Neuroma.
Arthritis is an inflammation and swelling of the cartilage and lining of the joints, generally accompanied by an increase in the fluid in the joints which can cause a stiffening of your ankle joint, leading to instability which will ultimately affect your swing. It can also cause pain in the joint of your big toe, hindering your ability to follow-through. Arthritis of the foot and ankle can be treated in many ways, including:
Heel Pain or Plantar Fasciitis is caused by the inflammation of the connective tissues on the bottom of the foot. It can be very painful, like a knife jabbing in your foot and can make it difficult to maintain a solid stance during your golf swing. The condition is often successfully treated with conservative measures, such as the use of anti-inflammatory medications, ice packs, stretching exercises, Orthotic devices, and physical therapy. Newer shockwave therapy is often used in severe cases that don't respond to more conservative treatments.
A Neuroma is an enlarged, benign growth of nerves, most commonly between the third and fourth toes. Neuromas are caused by tissue rubbing against and irritating the nerves often as a result of poorly fitting shoes. Symptoms may include sensations of thickness, burning, numbness, tingling, or pain in the ball of the foot which can make it painful to transfer your wait from one foot to the other during your golf swing. Treatments generally include wearing corrective shoes or orthotics and/or cortisone injections. In severe cases, surgical removal of the growth may be necessary.
Other foot problems can also cause problems like calluses and corns from ill-fitting shoes so it is important to make sure that your golf shoes are comfortable and fit properly. And consider Orthotics for a truly customized fit!
If you are experiencing one of these conditions or any other foot problems that may be hampering your game or life in general, please contact us to make an appointment for a consultation with one of our foot care specialists..
A simple biomechanical observation started what is now the biggest innovation in footwear since the running shoe technology developments in the 1970's. The rocker sole shoe trend started in 1996 after Swiss engineer Karl Muller discovered that walking barefoot in the paddy fields of Korea changed his posture and relieved his back, knee and Achilles tendon pain. He also discovered that the Masai tribesman of East Africa don't suffer from back pain and are well known for their excellent posture. In both cases, the ground is soft and results in a soft landing heel strike. He realized that walking on hard modern surfaces like pavements is what causes much of the back, knee and heel pain we suffer from. So he set about to design a shoe with a different approach to imitate a soft landing. Hence the first curved sole Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) shoe was born.
The basic premise of MBT's is that because of their rocker bottom, they result in an active rolling movement from heel to toe, decreasing impact forces, spreading the load across the foot more evenly and minimizing stresses up the kinetic chain.
By 2000, roughly 20,000 MBTs were sold in Europe alone and they gained popularity when celebrities started wearing them. Their popularity drew many other shoe manufacturers to design their own versions and to make marketing claims based on the instability underfoot concept, such as "Toning Shoes", "Total Body Shoes", Gyms for the Feet", all claiming to tone muscles, burn calories and even reduce cellulite. They based these claims on a study conducted by Sheffield Hallam University which showed an 18% increase in lower extremities muscle activity and a 2.5% increase in oxygen intake while walking (in MBT shoes as compared to conventional shoes) and a 38% increase in lower limbs muscle activity and a 28% increase in buttocks muscle activity while standing (in MBT shoes as compared to conventional shoes).
So, do they really work? The Sheffield Hallam University study certainly does indicate that wearing MBTs engages your muscles more and to some extent reduces strain on the body while walking. But there is no evidence that MBTs can help get rid of cellulite and burn extra calories. In fact, these claims are no longer made by manufacturers, but the perception still exists.
There is certainly anecdotal evidence from wearers that they have noticed improved tone in their legs and buttocks or have experienced relief from Achilles Tendonitis, heel pain or back pain. But there are also many people who have had to stop wearing them because they have aggravated or even caused bad backs or hips.
Dr Chris Kassaris, a board certified podiatrist in Connecticut, says that the smooth rocking motion can help certain patients who suffer from arthritic ankles, inflexible big toes or pain on the ball of the feet. But he quickly points out that there is no real evidence that changing your gait so dramatically will tone your muscles and help you lose weight. The only way to really do that, he says, is with good old fashioned diet and exercise. And he adds that if you notice any discomfort or pain after you start wearing rocker shoes, stop use immediately to avoid serious injury.
While MBTs and rocker bottoms are not for everyone, one thing is for sure, they are here to stay. They are available in many shapes and colors including the original MBTs, the most popular and affordable Sketchers Shape Ups and Reebok's Easytone. More recently, manufacturers have launched styles that are more dressy and there are even rocker flip-flops and sandals called Fit-Flops, so you can tone your legs all summer long!
During the summer months, we are mostly concerned with how our feet will look in sandals and flip flops, but as the colder weather returns and we start to slip our feet back into closed shoes, we may experience pain or discomfort caused by any one of a number of foot ailments. For example, if you suffer from bunions, squeezing your foot back into a winter shoe or boot can be a painful experience. The same holds true for corns, hammertoes, nerve pain and ingrown toenails. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce or alleviate these problems.
Dr Hendizadeh of Associated Podiatrists in Connecticut and New York, treats patients for a variety of foot ailments. He says many foot or ankle problems are caused by improper footwear, physical stress, or small mechanical changes within the foot. Many of these can be avoided by following a few simple guidelines. For example, ingrown toenails which can be very painful when wearing tight fitting shoes, can be avoided by trimming your nails straight across and using a little petroleum jelly on the corners to soften the nails and prevent them from curling inwards.
Foot fungus, in the form of athlete's foot or toenail fungus, can become a problem in the colder months when our feet are mostly enclosed in socks and shoes. Fungus thrives in a dark moist environment so it is important to avoid a sweaty foot situation by wearing moisture-wicking socks and letting your feet air out. Dr Yale, also of Associated Podiatrists, recommends that you wash your feet regularly, especially between the toes, and be sure to dry them completely.
Bunions are particularly problematic in closed shoes. Wearing shoes that are too tight is the leading cause of bunions. A bunion is a bone deformity caused by an enlargement of the joint at the base and side of the big toe. Bunions are not hereditary, but they do tend to run in families, usually because of a faulty foot structure, and because they are bone deformities, they do not resolve by themselves. The goal for bunion treatment is twofold: first, to relieve the pressure and pain cause by irritations and second to stop any progressive growth of the enlargement by choosing shoes that are wider and do not put pressure on the bunion. Padding and orthotics (shoe inserts) are often used to reduce friction and skin irritation and to stabilize the joint and put the foot in the correct position in the shoe. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
Hammertoe is a condition where the toe is bent into a claw-like position. It is usually caused by a muscle/tenden imbalance which can be aggravated by shoes that don't fit properly. Hammertoe can affect any toe, but most frequently occurs to the second toe which is often longer and forced into a cramped position in tight fitting shoes. Avoid shoes with pointed toes, shoes that are too short in the toe area and high heels which force the toes against the front of the shoe.
Neuromas, which can be very painful, are enlarged benign growths of nerves, most commonly between the third and fourth toes. Neuromas are caused by tissue rubbing against and irritating the nerves. Pressure from ill-fitting shoes or abnormal bone structure can also lead to this condition. Depending on the severity, treatments may include orthotics, cortisone injections, and, in extreme cases, surgical removal of the growth.
Plantar fasciitis, commonly referred to as heel pain, is an inflammation on the bottom of the foot and can be caused by a variety of foot injuries or improper foot mechanics and can lead to severe heel and/or arch pain. Treatments range from icing and foot exercises to the prescription of custom orthotics to correct the foot position and help alleviate pain.
The bottom line is that many foot and ankle problems can be avoided by choosing your shoes wisely - don't be a slave to shoe fashion. Your first priority should be comfort.
If you experience ongoing pain in your feet or ankles that is not alleviated by good care and treatment at home, it may be time to visit a podiatrist. Your feet take 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day which adds up to 115,000 miles in a lifetime so it pays to take care of them.