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A Shoe For Long Term Health - Top Tips When Buying Your Next Shoe

Written by Dr James Kueglar on October 13th, 2015.      0 comments

We have and continue to see a major shake up occurring in the conventional wisdom surrounding athletic footwear. The pendulum is swinging, and ironically many of folk who ran in the minimal offerings of a few years ago, are now the same people running in the maximal offerings of today. As companies enter the market place and start throwing money around, without standing for something, people will fall for anything.
 In the USA alone, the athletic footwear industry is worth fourteen billion dollars. A multiple billion dollar industry that from a running perspective grew predominantly on the basis of a hypothesis. Of course, hypothesis is the first step towards research, and the hypotheses of the 1960s and 70s around controlling the pronation of the foot to reduce injury were understandable. Research has advanced, and this has been proven incorrect many times over. Research advances, though often conventional wisdom takes a long time to catch up. It has been suggested that it takes fifteen years for specialist advice and conventional wisdom to catch up.

It is also worth noting that research results depend on the questions you ask. My goal is that you are able to run efficiently for years to come. So, from a research stand point I am more interested in the care of the human frame, and the long term implications of certain decisions.
Anatomic. The anatomy of the human foot plays an important role in balance and stability. The vast majority of western shoes are shaped based on fashion and/or tradition, and as such are narrower than the foot at the front, and squeeze the toes together. The result is a progressive deformation of the forefoot leading to a decrease in stability and balance. I suggest you look for a shoe that allows some room for your toes to spread.
With the above in mind, here are some things to consider when buying your next pair of shoes:

Lifestyle. You will likely be spending far more time in shoes for work/casual purposes than you will athletic footwear. If you spend your days in an achilles shortening, foot deforming, joint immobilising, sensory deprivation chamber the introduction of a shoe that is flat, flexible, shaped like a foot, and close to the ground is going to be far more challenging. My suggestion is that you first apply the below principles to the shoes that you wear for work and casual purposes.

Anatomy. Some practitioners would have us believe that >80% of the population have an abnormal foot that needs structural correction. It is more likely that <5% of the population have genetic defects that need structural correction. If you are part of that <5%, then the below principles may not be for you.

History. If over the last ___ (insert your age) years your feet have become deformed, immobile, weak, and proprioceptively unaware it is going to be more challenging to apply the below principles. The good news is that applying Davis' Law it is probable that with time, patience and consistent action, we can normalise anatomy, increase the proprioceptive awareness, strengthen and mobilise the foot.
Flexible. The human foot has twenty six bones, thirty three joints, and three arches and is perfectly equipped to adapt to a constantly changing environment. The surface underfoot is slightly different with every step you take, and the foot is perfectly equipped to adjust accordingly. With this in mind, I suggest you look for a shoe that is flexible enough to allow your foot to function according to its structure.

Flat. As the heel of the foot is raised off the ground the centre of gravity moves forward, and the pelvis rotates anteriorly. The greater the pitch of a shoe, the more evident this becomes. The long term implication of a raised heel is a shortening / tightening of the hip flexors and achilles tendon / soleus (deep calf muscle). As the prime agonist in the running action the hamstrings group are more difficult to contract as the pelvis rotates anteriorly, not to mention the sequelae of other challenges. I suggest you look for a shoe that is as flat as you can handle.

Proprioceptive. The human foot has an extremely high concentration of nerve endings. These nerve endings create a continuous and rapid feedback loop between the sole of the foot, the brain and the rest of the body. As the foot touches the ground with every step it is searching for this proprioceptive feedback so that the muscles of your body are able to adjust and control your position. This system works best with as little interference as possible. With this in mind, I suggest that you look for a shoe that is as close to the ground as you can handle.

It is unlikely that the above can be applied with out some challenges along the way. If the goal of being able to run efficiently for years to come, then I hypothesise that the challenge is worth the effort.



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