Since many of us are running, hiking and walking a lot more these days,  I thought it would be a good time to share some tips on keeping our feet happy. After all, we only get TWO feet in this life, and we need to keep them both strong and supple to stay active into our golden years.

80% of the skin on our feet is responsive to vibration, allowing us to anticipate ground force and react to it accordingly with the pressure we place on each step we take. Shoes delay the vibration that the skin on our feet are meant to read, creating a harder stride and a delay in the vibration of the step. This curbs the essential protective actions of  the muscles of the legs and glutes, and connective tissues throughout the body.

Picture yourself running barefoot on a hard surface. Would you take long strides and strike with your heels? Probably not. You would instinctively shorten your stride, and initially land with caution. This is an example of the issue at hand; our bodies aren’t built to take the long strides and strike with our heels. Our shoes are creating this false ability for us. Eventually, a ripple effect will ride through the body tissues resulting in disfunction and injury. Foot, knee, hip, low back… the force is now transmitted to joints instead of muscles, the vibration transferred to our shoes rather than connective tissues.

These are some ways you can tackle your issue at it’s root, and get back to having happy feet!

  1. If barefoot workouts are not possible, a barefoot warm up will help activate the compartments of the legs and hips and glutes. This response is totally different in bare feet so don’t use socks. Click here for a link to short foot exercise and single leg progressions you can do before you run or workout. If you are serious about fixing your feet, follow EBFAfitness on YouTube for excellent science on barefoot training.
  2. Though shoes with a lot of cushion feel good, wearing them can become a crutch. A more minimal shoe will decrease the delay time thereby teaching the body to strike the ground with less force on impact. Working toward a minimal shoe should be done gradually as the body needs time to adjust.
  3. Shoes with a wide toe box are essential for healthy feet. There should be ample space between our toes in a shoe. Start with toe socks in your shoes, provided the toe box of your shoe is wide enough, will help your spread out your toes.
  4. Regular myo-fascial release of the connective tissue of the lower leg, quads, hip flexors and glutes will help keep the joints better aligned for the task of running. The connective tissue should be mobile in response to vibration, but it gets lazy and stiffness up if the shoes are always doing the job. Click here for a list of myo-fascial release videos.
  5. Corrective exercises are a critical component of happy feet. Email about a one on one video assessment should your injury be severe.
  6. Take rest time of at least 48 hours between longer, harder runs. Work on upper body and core strength, but allow the micro trauma from that hill run or long trek to 100% recover before you hit it again.
  7. Be mindful of transitions between surfaces. Running 5 miles on a treadmills very different from running 5 miles on pavement. These two surfaces have wildly different vibrational effects on the body, and that change needs to be eased into gradually.
  8. Separation of your upper and lower body is critical for whole body healthy. Exercises that ask the core and hips to stabilize while the torso rotates (like a cable push/pull) promote functional movements of every day life. Every time you step, whether running or walking, your body takes force. This force should be dissipated into muscles, rather than connective tissues. This happens when we are able to separate the jobs of the body, and exploit them on their own, making integration of full body movement more fluid. Understanding this concept and applying in your workout can make you a more powerful athlete overall. From giving you a more consistent t-off, to giving you more power to run to the top of a hill and more, separating the upper and lower body is a critical component of sports and life performance.