Many bio-mechanical problems we face are directly correlated to improper walking and poor foot health. Proper walking has to do with more than just what your legs and feet are doing. While walking, your entire spine, as well as your pelvis, arms and shoulder girdle, should move fluidly creating an efficient stress-free and injury-free gait. The two main causes are not crawling long enough before walking as an infant/toddler and improper foot wear which create problems with our feet.
According to the Podiatry Society of NY, 99% of feet are perfect at birth, 8% have trouble at one year, 41% at five years and 80% by age twenty. Most people should not need supportive shoes and orthotics. Too much support and restriction from shoes will cause atrophy (or weakening) of foot and leg muscles as well as bunions, hammer toes and claw toes.
Proprioception is your body’s ability to know where your body parts are without looking at them. As an example you should not have to look down to see what your feet are doing when you are walking. As we age our proprioception decreases which is why many of the elderly begin to stumble and need to look down which causes them to hunch over. Loss of proprioception is increased with the deterioration and atrophy of the structure and muscles of the feet.
Except for people with specific podiatry issues, we should try to walk barefoot (or with socks only) as much as possible. When wearing shoes, especially for children, moccasin type shoes are best for freedom of movement and natural foot development. It is best to have a few different pairs of shoes and rotate them daily to give your feet a variety of physical stimulation. For women, heels should be restricted to approximately one and a half to two inches; higher heels should be worn seldom.
The concept of barefoot running has been in vogue recently. Conceptually it is great, but practically there is much more to it. First, natural barefoot running was not intended to be done consistently on hard pavement. Soft dirt or grassy surfaces are a better choice for barefoot running. Secondly, you should phase into barefoot running or walking with a more neutral shoe first.
If you choose to change to a less supportive or more heel-neutral shoe or running shoe you must plan to phase it in slowly and in stages. Try a shoe in between where you are and where you want to go first for a while before making the final change.