I was talking to a colleague today at the gym. She has been both a personal trainer and a runner for years. Our conversation about running and races lead her to express that at 60 years old she has seen a lot of runner’s feet and doesn’t want to end up with feet that are either painful or just plain of painful to look at. Foot problems (hammer toes, bunions, plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, missing toenails, toes that cross over other toes, etc.) can be common for runners, but they don’t have to be.
Running shoes (and your entire shoe collection) should be taken into careful consideration if you would like to prevent your feet from becoming unsightly or painful.
Our feet are designed to be widest at the toes. Most of today’s shoes are designed to force the toes together and raise both the heel and the toes up which changes how the muscles function and creates stress to the joints and soft tissues. Most of us have had our feet in these types of shoes since we were old enough to walk. And overtime our feet begin to adapt. One example is the friction created in the big toe results in a bunion which is basically a calcification to protect the joint from damage.
Ideally we want shoes that allow our feet to be in the most natural position possible. But what does natural mean?
- Shoes that are flexible allowing natural motion and the muscles of the foot to work as designed.
- Shoes that are widest at the toes allowing toes to spread out.
- Zero drop meaning that there is no heel elevation.
- No toe spring meaning that the toes are not elevated off the ground.
So basically what you want is a flat, flexible and wide shoe.
Transitioning to Natural Footwear
Imagine what an arm or leg looks like after being in a cast for weeks. The human body conserves energy by shutting off any muscles that are not being used. So after a cast is removed you see the atrophy or weaken of the muscles. And it is important to gradually rehabilitate the muscle. The same thing happens when your feet spend years in orthotics or shoes that have a lot of support or cushion. The muscles of your feet begin to weaken and become almost dependent on the support. So it becomes important that you gradually strengthen and create alignment in your feet to avoid injury.
Transition shoes might have little or no heel elevation or toe spring and should have a wide toe box. However, they may have less flexibility and more cushion than a natural shoe would.
Natural shoes are flat with a thin and flexible sole and a wide toe box.
Just like with training program there will be a gradual progression. Wearing natural shoes for shorter periods of time at first to allow your muscles and soft tissues time to adjust to moving in a new position.
Hold off on running in your natural shoes. The first 8 weeks are focusing on adjusting to walking and living in your natural footwear throughout your day. After you build up to wearing them full-time, then you can begin to gradually add running in them.
Example 12 Week Transition Plan
**Listen to your body and gradually build up as your body allows. This is a general guideline. Please use your own discretion.
Adjusting to Walking & Daily Wear (no running in the natural shoes yet)
|Week 1||1 hour / day|
|Week 2||2 hours / day|
|Week 3||3 hours / day|
|Week 4||4 hours /day|
|Week 5||5 hours / day|
|Week 6||6 hours / day|
|Week 7||7 hours / day|
|Week 8||8 hours / day|
Begin to Incorporate Running
|Week 9||15 minute run|
|Week 10||20 minute run|
|Week 11||25 minute run|
|Week 12||30 minute run|
Postural & Foot Alignment
Although shoes are important and will help with foot alignment. It is vital for pain free running to address any postural and foot alignment issues that may be affecting your gait and how you are moving through your feet and joints. For example, if there is an imbalance in your pelvic / hip area it will affect your gait and how you are moving through your joints and landing on your feet. Here is a test. Look at the bottom of your shoes. If they wear unevenly, then that is a sign that you need to realign your posture because it is likely a cause of your foot issues. If you are curious about whether or not your foot issues are related to your posture, then you can learn more at www.posturalhealing.com.