A lot of people have ‘foot problems’ these days and yet there’s nothing wrong with how your foot is constructed.
Your foot is made to move – if it wasn’t we could get by with a hinge joint at the ankle and a single chunk of bone to stand on, but instead we have 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments that work together to maintain 3 arches that are an architectural marvel! Which we then stick inside a shoe that doesn’t allow you to find grip with your toes, denies you of massive amounts of ground feedback information which improves your balance (“proprioception” in fancy health and fitness professional jargon), maybe even restricts it from moving, and points and jams your toes together (hey, who doesn’t want bunions?). Then we wonder why we have pain, so we pay a lot for orthotic supports to further splint the foot and restrict its movement in a different position.
If you’ve ever watched a toddler, you might be amazed at their range of motion. They drop so easily into a perfect ass-to-grass squat to pick something up; no restriction in the hips, no bending through the low back. They start to run and they develop a higher and stronger arch in the foot and as they learn to go faster (everyone wants to go faster) they naturally rise up onto the forefoot and go. So naturally we put them in shoes to restrict the foot’s ability to move (what Barefoot Ted calls “foot coffins”), and then we tell them to slow down, stop running, and sit down in this chair to further shorten their muscles and reproduce our own dysfunction. The sitting thing is a whole other conversation though….
Your ankle and foot are similar to the wrist and hand in construction and design, yet no one is suggesting we use some manner of motion-control stabilizing splinting orthotic before trusting your hand to perform regular tasks such as hold your coffee mug, carry a box, or hold correct positioning during a push-up. There is nothing inherently wrong with your hands and wrists that warrants this kind of external support.
There’s nothing wrong with your foot either. Well… I can’t speak to your foot specifically, but generically, your feet are beautiful.
The bones and joints are meant to move, there’s nothing wrong with pronating, and it’s most likely that if you have an issue with foot pain or ankle pain – or knee and hip and low back and and and – you would do better to spend time investing in retraining the way you move and strengthening your hips and feet rather than flushing money down the toilet on ever more expensive shoes.
I’m not saying there’s never a place for orthotics, just like there are times when you need to wear a cast on account of how something is broken. However, if your primary problem is pain and discomfort when walking, running, training, standing around, or getting out of bed, odds are there’s nothing broken, you just need to train yourself to return to full functionality.
I am frequently asked about my Vibram Five Fingers minimalist footwear (my shoes have toes, yo. You can learn more about Vibram products here: vibramfivefingers.com). My foot is made to withstand the rigours of standing – and training, and yes, even running – without requiring artificial support, so I wear minimalist shoes at work instead of going barefoot for hygiene reasons and outside for the added protection from hot cement and rocks or otherwise stepping on something that will end my outing. In my home, it’s bare feet all the way.
I always recommend training barefoot (or as close to barefoot) as often as possible. In the short term, you might be surprised at how sore your foot gets. That isn’t proof of why you shouldn’t do it, this is proof of how weak you’ve let your foot get.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself you could never be a runner because your feet hurt too much, think again. Maybe you have no dream of running, but don’t rule it out as a possibility. You were born for it. And if you want to give it a shot, I’m here to help you get started. If simply walking or standing is causing you foot pain, talk to me, I can help you with that too.
Stronger feet will lead to a stronger body, an increased range of motion and a decrease in pain. Your feet are your foundation! Let them do the job they were designed to do and you’ll be another step closer to living long and living strong!