Footwear - How Important Is It Really? Part OneThere is no doubt that we have all heard numerous times in our lives about the importance of wearing good, supportive footwear. Yet, for a lot of people there is great uncertainty as to whether this advice applies to them, and if so, what this “good footwear” really is. These are both great points and questions, so let me explain them both. Here in Part One, we’ll answer the first important question:
Does the recommendation to wear good, supportive footwear apply to me? And why?The best way to explain this would be to give you an idea of what happens when we walk. With every step we take, there is so much movement and mechanisms of action with the foot that you do (seemingly) effortlessly, it’s easy to forget that each of the 26 bones of your foot moves and functions specifically and precisely during each step. They work with all the surrounding muscles, ligaments, tendons and tissues to help you step comfortably and keep doing so all day, every day. It can be hard work, which is why our feet are often sore at the end of the day and it feels so good to put them up.
When you are barefooted, or in footwear that does nothing to support and control your foot, your foot moves freely according to your natural foot posture. If you have flat feet you will be rolling in more than normal, if you have an unstable ankle you may be tipping outwards, and so on.
If you have a foot injury, regardless of the cause, you will want to have as much control of the function and movement of your foot as possible and keep it as stable as possible. This is important to help maintain the optimal function of potentially damaged structures, reducing strain and helping them to heal.
Unfortunately, unlike when we injure our arm and can have it in a sling to support and immobilise it so it can heal, the only way to immobilise our feet is to not use them and that doesn’t work for a lot of people, especially when you have bills to pay. Your injured foot still gets pressure and tension through it with every step, so the goal is to minimise these strains as much as possible so you can heal and feel better as fast as possible while remaining active. In an ideal world, to get you better the fastest while still maintaining mobile, we may get every single person into a moon boot. How- ever, that too doesn’t work for your daily activities, work, and quality of life so we reserve these for more severe injuries.
That is, however, a good way of thinking of the function of a good, supportive shoe - like a moon boot or a medical device that aims to support, stabilise, off-load and get you better as fast as possible. A lot of every day good shoes do a good job of this - some of our personal favourites are Asics, New Balance, Brooks and Ziera shoes. There are plenty more - and what’s a LOT more important than brand names are the features of good, supportive footwear and knowing these so you can make good footwear choices when you’re buying your next pair. We’ll go over all of these in Part Two next.
What people with injuries don’t realise is that their choice of footwear has a great impact on the rate of their recovery, so while those high heeled shoes or slip-on flats may look lovely (and they do), you will be in pain for that much longer because of them and your injury will keep hindering your quality of life and ability to partake in certain activities for that much longer. Which no one wants. If you have a foot injury, you MUST think of your footwear as a medical aspect to treatment, because it is. However, it can play a much bigger role than medications such as pain-killers be- cause while pain-killers may temporarily numb your pain, footwear will actually facilitate healing and repair to permanently get rid of your pain. New way of looking at it, isn’t it?
Furthermore, and very importantly, continuing to wear good, supportive footwear is likely to greatly reduce your chance of re-injury, especially if your foot posture has contributed to the development of your pain. Because you don’t want to just get rid of your pain but you want it to stop coming back so you can do the things you love and realise your fullest potential.
Might be time for some spring footwear cleaning! Check out our next blog on which features of good, supportive footwear to look out for! If you’re currently struggling with a lower limb injury, give our talented team of podiatrists a call on 07 4638 3022 - we’d love to help!