Thursday, March 24, 2011
Footware for Health
Shoes and Sandals for Healthy FeetPosted By Dr. Ben Kim on Mar 24, 2011
Last summer, I mentioned that we purchased Keen Newport Sandals for our boys to give their growing bodies optimal support from the ground up.
I've since received dozens of notes from readers who have found Keen's H2 model to be helpful for a wide variety of physical problems surrounding the feet, ankles, knees, hips, and even the lower back region.
The positive praise for Keen sandals doesn't surprise me, as I've long observed chronic knee, hip, and ankle problems improve considerably after making sure that all of the joints in the feet and ankles are moving properly.
If you have chronic pain and/or stiffness in your lower extremities, you are likely to benefit from visiting a health care provider who has experience mobilizing the many joints - 33 of them, to be exact - in each of your feet that need to glide properly to allow the rest of your body to function normally.
Having tight muscles or a stiff joint within the middle part of one of your feet can cause problems all the way up to your head and neck. I've actually witnessed chronic tension headaches disappear within a few sessions of mobilizing the feet and ankles. This is why health practitioners who specialize in manual therapies think of the body as being a kinetic chain - each major joint sits next to other major joints, and like a series of gears, all joints need to work properly to allow the whole chain to function.
Since the mention of Keen sandals was well received, I'd like to share a few thoughts on other types of footwear that I can wholeheartedly recommend to provide optimal support to the feet and body.
But first, in case you're new to our community, please note that the two types of footwear that I don't recommend are high heels and flip flops.
The problems associated with wearing high heels are obvious. Wearing high heels significantly increases your risk of experiencing a bad ankle sprain.
High heels and other forms of footwear that have small toe boxes tend to crowd your toes, which can increase your risk of developing painful bunions and other toe deformities.
Wearing high heels can also contribute to lower back pain and upper back stiffness, as standing on the balls of your feet for long stretches forces your lower back to arch backward and your upper back to arch forward - not enough to be perceptible to most observers, but enough to cause real problems over the long term.
Flip flops generally make for poor footwear because they force your toes to chronically grip down onto the flip flops to keep your feet stable during gait. Though not so noticeable to most people, this constant flexing action by the toes can lead to a number of problems, most commonly plantar fascitis (pain in the arches of the feet), pain along the inner aspect of the knees, and even hip pain deep within the ball-and-socket joint.
So now that we're clear on the problems with wearing high heels and flip flops over the long haul, let's take a look at some of the most supportive shoes and sandals that you can bless your body with:
Keen Newport Sandals
We've already mentioned these super comfortable and supportive sandals. Here are some links to them at Amazon:
Please note that a number of reviews of these sandals recommend ordering up half a size, so please consider this before purchasing Keen Sandals. Also, whenever you purchase footwear from a reputable company, so long as you don't wear new items outdoors, you can almost always receive a refund should you find that they aren't well suited for your feet and gait.
Birkenstock Milano Soft Footbed Sandal with Heel Strap
If you opt for a pair of world famous Birkenstocks, try to get one with heel straps. An adjustable heel strap is what allows feet to remain stable while walking in sandals, which addresses the constant toe-flexing problem that occurs with flip flops.
The Birkenstock sandals that I like best can be found here:
New Balance Running Shoes
Though I prefer tennis to running and know a lot more about tennis shoes than running or training shoes, I've had a number of clients swear by New Balance.
From what I've read and heard, the latest models by New Balance provide an excellent combination of stability and support. One longtime client threw away her custom-made orthotics after going with the following pair of New Balance shoes:
Here's the equivalent for men:
Though these shoes are designed to support serious runners, I think they're an excellent choice for long walks and just going about your everyday activities.
One point that I especially like about New Balance: they don't pay big bucks for celebrity endorsements. They choose to let their technology sell itself. As the Yiddish proverb goes, "good merchandise sells itself." Or as New Balance puts it: Endorsed by No One.
And because I'm a true tennis nut, I can't end this post without a recommendation for a great tennis shoe. But top notch tennis shoes are actually some of the best shoes you can wear for any activities that involve a lot of cutting from side to side.
Wilson typically has a number of entry level tennis shoes that are really comfortable and of great value, but over the long run, you really get what you pay for with Addidas tennis shoes.
But please note that Adidas barricade shoes are meant to be super durable, so they're somewhat rigid and require a good work-in period to feel comfortable. I've also found Adidas barricade shoes to be best suited for narrow to medium width feet.
If you prefer more flexibility and cushioning in your shoes, I wholeheartedly recommend Head Speed Pro Tennis Shoes. No other tennis shoes that I've tried provide the same level of cushioning and support for medium to wide feet. Head Speed Pro Tennis Shoes are also quite durable and provide excellent ventilation.
Please remember: the shoes and sandals that you choose to wear on a daily basis have significant impact on the health of your joints over a lifetime. Consider that the average person walks around 5 miles per day, translating to 8,000 to 10,000 steps every day. Multiply this by decades, and it becomes obvious that it makes sense to invest in quality shoes that provide a good blend of support and stability.
Please feel free to share this post with family and friends who may not know about the importance of choosing quality footwear for a healthy body.