As the weather gets warmer people can finally shed their winter coats and boots in favor of sunny days and strolls on the sand. While we know all about protecting our skin from sun damage, we often overlook another body part in need of some extra summer care: our feet.
After spending a long winter in sturdy boots and cushioned shoes, our feet and ankles become accustomed to a certain level of stability. A sudden switch to bare feet, flip-flops and flats that offer little support drastically changes the way the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the foot and lower leg are used. Most shoes, including running shoes, have at least a small heel elevation, and spending a winter in them can cause calf muscles to become shortened. Flat shoes stretch the calf muscles, placing stress on the Achilles tendons and causing biomechanical changes such as increased pronation. Flip-flops in particular actually change the way we walk, as we are forced to take shorter steps and curl our toes under in order to keep the shoes on our feet. This is the exact opposite of our natural gait, where we bring our toes up as we step forwards, and can cause excessive firing of the small muscles in the foot. Without allowing time for our feet to adapt gradually with adequate recovery we can develop foot pain and overuse injuries such as metatarsal stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendonitis. As stresses travel up the kinetic chain they can have significant effects on the knees, hips, and back as well. Following these tips can help keep you and your feet healthy and happy throughout your summer:
- Have a chiropractic check up at evolve!
- Stretch your calf muscles, start stretching daily, even before you make the switch to summer footwear.
- Allow time to adapt and alternate with supportive footwear for several weeks, increase the amount of time you spend
barefoot or in less supportive shoes gradually, so your body has time to adapt. Start with short outings that don’t involve a lot of walking while continuing to wear your regular footwear for other activities.
- Choose quality footwear. You don’t have to spend summer laced into hiking boots. There are lots of sandals and summer shoes that still provide your feet with some degree of support. Look for firmer soles with contouring to support the shape of your foot, rather than a thin, flat footbed. Sandals with straps around your heel and mid-foot offer stability and allow for a more natural gait than flip-flops.
- Consider your activity when choosing your shoes. Even if you have been gradually introducing your summer footwear, using common sense can help minimize your risk of injury. Wearing flat, strappy sandals may be fine for a lunch date where you’re mostly going to be seated, but if you’re running errands, sight-seeing, or strolling along the seawall, choose something with more support.
- Know your personal limitations. While some people can happily pad around all summer in bare feet, individual factors such as previous injuries, overpronation syndrome, or conditions like diabetes may mean you need to take extra precautions in order to stay healthy. Ask your chiropractor for advice regarding specific concerns you may have.
- Recognize warning signs. If you notice your feet are feeling fatigued, you have muscle cramps or tightness, or start developing pain or stiffness in the knees, hips or back, it could be a sign your body is struggling to adapt to a change in footwear. Even new calluses or blisters on your feet can indicate a change in gait and increased risk of injury. Addressing signs of dysfunction early on is critical to injury prevention.
For further information please contact one of your practitioners at evolve Nurturing Vitality®.