Finding Fault With Your Feet: Strides to Improve Your Daily Walk
By Genevieve Cunningham
Walking. We do it every day of our lives. Most of the time, we do it with purpose but without thought. Maybe we’re walking to the kitchen, walking to work, or walking the dog. We don’t even think about the walking aspect; we just get up and go. But should we be thinking about walking? Should we walk for the sake of it, or maybe for exercise, or to clear our minds? Should we pay attention to the way we walk and the way it makes us feel?
The answer is a resounding yes. The way we walk, the amount we walk, and the purpose of our walk can have huge impacts on our health. Maybe it’s time we pay attention.
What’s the Correct Way to Walk?
Who knew there was a correct way to walk? Most people believe it’s as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. For good health and minimal pain, it’s important to follow good walking form.
- Stand tall with your eyes up - Slouching is never good for the body. When you’re walking, it’s important to maintain good posture, which can begin with keeping yourself tall and straight.
- Keep your shoulders down - When we’re focused on posture, we have a tendency to tense the shoulders and bring them up closer to the ears. Stop, relax, and let your shoulders fall down. This helps prevent tension and pain in the neck and back.
- Swing your arms - Arm swing is more important than most people realize. Your arms should swing from the shoulders in a relaxed and natural way. An interrupted arm swing can alter your gait and lead to discomfort.
- Touch from heel to toe - If you’re a runner, you know that landing on your heel is not a good idea. However, while walking, the heel should strike first and the foot should roll to the toe. This heel to toe movement is the best way to protect the foot from injury.
What Role Do Shoes Have on Your Body Movement?
Walking can be affected by multiple outside factors -- your clothes, your fitness level, your environment -- but perhaps the most significant factor is your shoes. Your shoes are the barrier between your feet and the ground. They literally shape your feet while also contributing to the manner in which you hold your weight, move your feet, and position your legs.
Depending on the shape of your shoe’s heel, your foot may roll slightly inward or outward when you step. This can lead to various pains in the foot itself as well as the calves and knees. If your shoes don’t have a supportive arch, it can cause an intense pain in the foot and may even lead to permanent injury. Some research even suggests that footwear keeps the foot from moving as it naturally should. And since our feet quite literally take us forward, this interruption in natural movement has big implications. But the effects of shoes go far beyond the foot. They impact the body and your health as a whole.
Footwear Impact on Gait and Stride
It’s true that shoes affect the shape of your feet and the way in which your foot and ankle moves, but it also affects your gait and stride. One might expect that shoes improve gait and stride, but that’s not always the case. The effects have everything to do with the type of footwear.
- Barefoot walking - If we don’t walk with any shoes, our stride is shortened and our toes just barely clear the ground. Some argue that this is best for the body and that walking barefoot can improve our natural gait and muscle engagement. Unfortunately, our world is not set up for permanent barefoot walking.
- Sneakers - Sneakers change stride length and gait, but it’s different for every person. To understand how sneakers affect your feet, take a look at the bottom of an old pair of sneakers. The manner in which the wear and tear is showing can tell you everything you need to know about your individual walking patterns.
- High heeled shoes - This type of shoe changes everything about the way the foot and leg moves and functions. Stride is shortened, balance is compromised, and knee flexion and trunk control is heavily increased.
Do our shoes affect the way we walk? Absolutely. They affect everything from the way our foot strikes the ground to the length of stride to the way our muscles in the leg and back work. This is why choosing the right shoes becomes one of the most important tasks for less pain and better health, and why chiropractors pay so much attention to the soles of our footwear.
How Do You Find the Right Pair of Shoes?
The right pair of shoes are worth their weight in gold. Supporting your feet in the right way can prevent pain and improve your step. These tips can help you choose good shoes for your feet and their ultimate purpose.
- Get your feet measured - A good shoe store will have someone available to measure your feet. Finding the right fit for your shoes starts with this simple step.
- Ignore shoe size - You don’t have to completely ignore shoe size. After all, size is a good guide to get started. But it’s more important to make sure the shoes fit your foot. Finding shoes that fit properly is far more important than the number on the box.
- Walk around in the shoes - Do not buy shoes without walking around in them first. The size and shape of shoes can vary widely, and it’s crucial that the shoes feel supportive on your feet. Spend time in the shoes before you make any purchases.
- Remember your purpose - Keep in mind the reason why you’re buying new shoes. Dress shoes have a different purpose than sneakers, and so we approach the buying process differently. Keep the purpose of the shoe -- and the amount of time they’ll be worn -- in mind when choosing shoes.
What Does Shoe Wear Mean to a Chiropractor?
Any time you’re experiencing pain -- whether it’s in the feet, legs, back, or neck -- seeing the chiropractor is a good idea. Chiropractors may be able to help pinpoint the cause of your pain and then create a plan to get you feeling your best.
But you may be wondering: How on earth can a chiropractor help my feet? Chiropractors care about health as a whole, so they’ll take a look at the manner in which the body moves and functions. But if you’re having foot pain, they’ll also take a look at your shoes.
After evaluating your spine and perhaps your joints, chiropractors may take a look at the way your shoes have worn along the bottom. This will tell them what they need to know about gait, stride, and potential injuries. After determining the cause of pain, they may create a plan of regular chiropractic adjustments, and may also provide advice about which shoes to wear and which to avoid.
Walking isn’t something we’re ever going to stop doing. We’ll continue to walk to the kitchen, walk to work, and walk the dog. Shouldn’t we be comfortable doing it? Absolutely yes.
Allow a chiropractor to find the fault with your feet and make a plan to keep you moving forward. It really is a step in the right direction.
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