Shoes for healthy back

Importance of good footwear for your general health and the health of your spine. What to wear?

Good footwear not only provides you with stability and comfort but largely influences the alignment of your ankles, knees, hips and the spine. Good alignment of these joints insures good function and prevents problems and pain.

Feet normal anatomy

Just as I explained in the article dedicated to hip pain and knee pain, your feet are built for natural surfaces like sand and grass stones and pebbles. Soft natural surfaces suppose to make your foot “grab” and mould into them and more rough surfaces would stimulate and massage your feet.

This natural combination of two different environments are there to keep our feet strong. This strength is  provided by a number of muscles and ligaments keeping the multiple joints of your feet aligned and flexible.

Modern living and the health of your feet

Modern living binds us to flat walking surfaces where foot doesn’t have to grip and never stimulated appropriately. This slowly weakens the muscles of the foot, over stretches the ligaments and our feet start to “over-pronate” this is when the alignment of the foot and the ankle changes, flattening and changing the angle of the foot arches (see picture below).

The second and even worse contributor to flat foot is moder footware – pretty but horrible tight and pointy shoes/trainers. Those direct your toe unnaturally inwards, squash metatarsals (straight foot bones) and provoke flattening and pronation.

Depending on the individual, foot arches may become over or under-pronated, however the over-pronated arches normally much more common and cause more widespread problems. Also we found that over-pronated or flat feet generally is a slow developing problem, when under-pronated or high arch feet is often in-born problem causing problems mostly local to your feet and ankles

Chiropractic approach to foot alingment and its relation to the alingnment of the spine

Chiropractic approach to health is based on restoring natural alignment and flexibility of the joints of the spine, and of course as a holistic natural medicine, chiropractors look at the alignment of all parts of the body from foot to neck. All joints of the body have certain anatomy and shape designed for perfect fit and good function. If foundation of this chain of joints changes (your foot changes it’s shape), joints above will have to move and behave differently. When joints don’t move according to their shape and form, they start to “wear and tear” much faster or as medical doctors call it – they degenerate.  Of course that will bring inflammation and pain in all joins involved.

This is why pronated or flat feet may cause ankle pain, knee pain, low back pain, neck pain and slouching posture.

We often see, that over-pronated or flat feet may cause knee, hip and back problems, not mentioning slouching posture. We also witnessed, that improving the alignment of your feet may bring patients faster recovery from knee and back pain and certainly improves their posture, therefore we recommend to wear healthy footwear.

How your shoes affect your posture

Lets talk about footwear. Choices of appropriate footwear must be based on restoring and maintaining the properties of natural foot arch or/and compensating for lack of soft and “bouncy” surfaces to walk on. This is very effective approach, because it helps to restore natural balance in the chain of movement from foot through knees and hips into your back and neck.

Most of modern shoes have narrow forefoot (front of the shoe), which contributes to flat feet. This is very unfortunate, but fashion designers do not seem to care much about your health. Thankfully there are alternative choices of wider or “Barefoot” options.

Some of the brands are more comfortable and soft but designed mostly for older ladies and gentlemen and although these shoes are more comfortable and pleasure to walk in, they nowhere near to be as wide as required to naturally activate all the foot muscles and ligaments including big toe engagement.

More trendy and fashionable shoes, unfortunately often have very narrow toe-front. This not only contributes to flat foot but maximises impact on your joints while you walk, providing no amortisation (bounciness) and making every step a direct hard blow to your cartilage and bone in your knees, hips and spine.

Bunions, hill spores and plantar fasciatis

And, if there is no correct foot alingment your weight is distributed between two points of the foot –  the spot below the big toe (head of first metatarsal) keeping the big toe itself – inactive, and the hill, that causes the development of bunions and hill spores and also through over stretching the ligaments at the base of your foot it may give you the plantar fasciatis – an inflammation of the ligaments at the sole of your foot which makes walking painful.

Prevention and correction of foot problems

There are number of things you can do to prevent all these problems. If you want to improve your current shoes, all you need to do is wear arch supporting insoles, which will keep your arch supported and distribute your weight across most of the foot, taking pressure off the toe and hill, preventing all above mentioned problems.

When buying shoes please try to get a pair with arch support built in (difficult to find…) or with the soft sole to mould to your sole when you put pressure on it like Crocs or similar. Make sure your foot can fit into the shoe comfortably and it’s wide enough for your toes to easy and fully spread. Or if you own a pair of arch supporting insoles, make sure they fit into your new shoes, when you buy a new pair.

Best of all, own a pair of barefoot shoes of a wider forefoot. These amazing invention makes your foot “work out”, keeping ligaments and muscles of the foot strong. Generally these shoes will also work for your ankles, knees and hips but less for the arch of your foot.

Crocs for pronated feet and other foot problems.

Crocs are absolutely brilliant in compensating the impact of daily standing and walking. The Crocs are very light, actually much lighter than you think. And main properties of these shoes are based around a thick inner sole made from CrocliteR material, which is a spongy rubber, hard enough to support your weight and soft enough to make you feel like you are walking on soft carpet.

Although Crocs have only minimal arch support built in, you are creating an arch support when walking or standing, because your foot moulds into the inner sole, distributing your weight evenly and making the muscles and ligaments work according to their design. Only wider Crocs models are recommended and narrow models have to be avoided.

Fit-Flops for strengthening your ankles

Fit flops have slightly harder and higher sole compared to Crocs and are called Fit Flops because they exercise your feet, knees and ankles making you “more fit”. If you like wearing flip-flops, then the Fit-flops are for you. The main function of this marvellous shoes if to minimise the impact of walking and standing and just as I mentioned earlier to compensate for the luck of natural walking surfaces. FitFlop footwear features patent-pending, muscle-loading Microwobbleboard™ technology to increase the time that your muscles are engaged every single time you take a step. However, if your feet are pronated or flat, it will not support the arch.

Only wider models of Fit-Flops models are recommended and narrow models have to be avoided.

MBTs, Sketchers Shape-ups for leg strength

These are the ones for your “training on the go” just as I recommended in my article “The Cure” when I recommended incorporating exercises into your daily routines. The aim of this shoe is to make your foot “less stable”. All muscles in you foot, knees, hips and in your back are arranged in pairs and are constantly working in synchrony to keep every joint aligned and balanced, just as I mentioned in my article “Mechanical Balance”. Of course, when the “foundation” (your foot) becomes unstable all these muscles have to work harder to ensure the alignment stays right. This is why this shoes make the muscles of your legs stronger all the way from the ankles to the spine.

The MBT shoes introduced this principle first, producing the MBT Anti-Shoe and later Sketchers made their version. Both are very effective and it is hard to tell which is better. MBTs are much more expensive, but claim that they have more research and more science behind the construction and design of their shoe. Sketchers don’t claim anything, and their models are very successful and are very comfortable.

Wearing these shoes is very beneficial for back pain sufferers as it trains deep spinal muscles along with legs and ankles.

If you have very flat feet, but still want to use MBTs, you would have to wear arch supporting insoles at the same time.

These shoes are not wide enough to be “natural” footware.

Birkenstocks to support the arches

This footwear is well known brand of “natural footwear” made famous by their slippers with two main advantages – the arch support and the cork material. This shoes are good for a moderate intensity arch support and good comfort.

These need to be either with higher arch support or to be wider on the front for a natural foot action across arches and toes.

The arch supporting insoles

If you opt out of Barefoot shoes and prefer wearing wider but “normal” shoes, you may end up choosing the arch supporting insoles. If you noticed, I say “insoles”, not just “arch supports”? Your foot is much more complicated than an isolated arch support may provide for.

Your foot has three arches and using an arch support which may slide back and forth inside your shoe will not solve the problem. The insole has to have a hill part which “cups” the hill of your foot to align it. The arch supporting part of the insole will do the main job, but without correct hill alignment it won’t be as effective, so your insole has to have a hill cup.Insoles normally come in full length or 3/4 length. 3/4 length insoles are easier to fit into different shoes and they leave more space inside the shoe, so that may be more comfortable. There a false opinion exists, that 3/4 insoles may slip deep into the shoe and that full length is preferable, it may be true for some insoles, however the ICB design has a hill cup which fixes insole in the right place cupping your hill. We only use full length insoles in cases where some special attachments are to be used to support metatarsal arch or for additional wedges mounted to the side of the insole. The design of the arch supporting insole is the same for both the full length and the 3/4 length version. On the picture below you can see all the curves and angles of a good arch support that is what a good insole should look like (Full length ICB dual density sport insoles). The 3/4 insoles will look like the one on the picture in the head of this article (ICB hard density 3/4)

The hardness of insole is very important, if the insole is too flat and soft it wouldn’t do anything and I would say the harder it is the better. If you weigh over 80 kg you need hard insoles, below 60 you will do with medium  and if you have sensitive or painful feet (e.g. diabetic), you will have to wear soft insoles. This is different for different makes of insoles, of course. Harder insoles will do better job, just take longer get to get used to. Anyway they will be very unlikely too hard for you, because they all made out of soft rubber this days.
Below is the list of properties of the ICB insoles we offer in our clinic, these properties are desireable in any insoles if you are looking for good results. These are professional grade product and has to be fitted appropriately. We are based in East London at Chimes Chiropractic.

You will be needing a softer insoles for running and other sports and harder ones for daily standing and walking. The softer ones will fit better into your trainers or other sport shoes and the harder ones will suit more for the office shoes or working boots. When you get a new pair of arch supporting insoles, start to wear them gradually increasing the time day by day. General recommendation is to wear them for no more than an hour of standing and walking on your first day and then increasing day by day until you are comfortable to wear them all day.

Sketcher Go-Walk for the bounce in your step

People love sketchers for their soft and bouncy insoles and breathable fabric and these can be used with insoles as sketchers are too narrow to provide for a natural foot alignment and correct position of big toe and foot bones.

The summary of Healthy Footware – Natural Chiropractic Approach!

As you see from above, there is a good selection of shoes to suit your healthy needs. And we can’t review all the brands available on the marketI personally wouldn’t wear anything  which doesn’t feel comfortable and doesn’t support (insoles) or naturally activate (Barefoot shoes) my foot arch.