Shopping for shoes these days can be a very confusing and time-consuming process. There are literally hundreds of different types of shoes to choose from varying in amount of support, heel height, width, flexibility, shape of the sole, type of material, and the list goes on. Then there are all the conflicting opinions surrounding the purchase of footwear. Some people insist that you need to wear orthotics and supportive shoes to help prevent overpronation (i.e., when the arch of the foot collapses), while others tout the benefits of minimalist and barefoot-type shoes to strengthen the foot so that it doesn’t collapse. All this differing information makes most of us feel like we are not equipped to make good shoe-buying decisions, and when we finally do bite the bullet, never quite feel confident we have made the right choice.
Fortunately, you don’t need to feel so powerless when it comes to buying the right shoes. Understanding your body, and the way it works, can help you narrow down your shoe choices and make decisions about footwear based on the individual characteristics of your own body. If you spend all day seated, for example, driving, at a computer and/or watching television, your hip sockets can get restricted into a bent hip position which eventually causes immobility of the hips. So how does immobility in the hips affect your feet and footwear choices? Well, when you are walking and/or running, you need to transfer your weight from your right foot to your left foot and vice versa. To do this, your foot should roll in from right to left (and left to right) to help you transfer your weight correctly. As your foot rolls in (i.e., pronates), your ankle should also roll in following the foot. This rolling in of the ankle makes your shin and thighbone roll in also. As you may know, the end of the thighbone forms your hip socket where your leg attaches to your pelvis. Therefore, if you have immobility in the hip sockets due to your prolonged seating activities, your upper leg (thighbone) will not be able to follow your feet, ankles and shin bones when they roll in. If you then buy shoes that encourage dynamic foot movement (like minimalist and/or barefoot shoes), you will effectively cause more stress to your hip socket and aches and pains could result.
Learning how to assess your body parts, especially your feet, ankles and hips, to see if they are working correctly will help you understand which shoes are right for you. If you have good range of motion in all of these structures then you can encourage them to get stronger by wearing minimalist and/or barefoot shoes. However, if any of these structures lack mobility then wearing unsupportive shoes may actually cause you more harm than good. If you determine that you do lack foot, ankle, or hip mobility it might be a good idea to wear more supportive shoes and/or orthotics in the short term, while you do corrective exercises to help loosen up those areas, so you can eventually progress to less supportive shoe types. To help you evaluate the current mobility of your feet, ankles and hips before shopping for your next pair of shoes watch the video that accompanies this blog to learn “How To Choose The Right Shoes“.
Remember, choosing the right shoes is not just about feet. Your feet are only one part of a kinetic chain that runs throughout your entire body. Evaluating how all of the parts are working (or not working as the case may be) before choosing your shoes is the key to selecting the best pair for your needs.