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Could Your Shoes Be The Cause of Foot Dysfunction and Decreased Performance?

Shoes and Performance

Foot Health and Your Performance

Typically the feet are a forgotten body part when it comes to training but the health of your foot can be one of the most crucial aspects in how well you perform on the field or ice.  Also the type of shoe you wear while training can play a huge role.

Types of Shoes

Shoes and Performance

There are a ton of different types of shoes out there nowadays. You have running shoes, walking shoes, training shoes, basketball shoes, hiking boots, casual shoes, dress shoes and the list goes on. Why is there a different shoe for every little thing I do in life? For the most part the shoe companies are just trying to make money so they will “create” a shoe for every possible task in life. But aren’t our feet supposed to naturally do all of these tasks anyway? Yup…and BAREFOOT at that!

Foot Anatomy

Our feet are amazingly strong (or at least supposed to be) and they have one of the highest sensory outputs in the entire body! They contain 33 joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments per foot!! So why in the world would we drown them and cover them with big bulky shoes that weaken our feet and reduce their sense of touch?

How The Feet Function

The feet have so many functions that can affect performance. The big toe is vital in how well you push off your foot. During activities such as sprinting this can make or break your explosiveness. The mobility of the ankle joint has a huge effect on your performance as well. Efficient dorsiflexion can help improve your speed and explosiveness by allowing your foot to act like a spring. Every time you hit the ground, your foot will propel you forward instead of pounding straight into the ground. This will limit the pressure on your joints and increase your body’s energy efficiency.

How Your Shoe Can Hinder Foot Function

Many shoes now have a raised heel so you’re walking around on this thick platform reducing your feel of the ground. The front of the shoe which is called the toe box is typically very narrow leading to the toes getting squished together. These two popular designs in shoes cause huge problems for your foot health and ultimately your performance. As stated above big toe push off and ankle mobility are vital to optimal foot performance. The raised heel can change your posture, how you stand, walk and run. This can lead to a heel striking running pattern.  Increasing your risk for hip, knee and foot pain as well as decreased performance. Squishing your toes into narrower toe boxes will lead to lack of mobility and dysfunction of your big toe reducing power and explosiveness.

The Culprits

These are many of the most popular shoes “designed” for running, training and hiking. But wait….aren’t my feet already designed to do all of these things? Why do I need a specially designed shoe with extra support to help? All that extra support is like a cast for your foot, although it’ll feel better in the short term limiting any pain you have from your feet or hips being weak. In the long term you are actually just making the problem worse by reducing the movement of the hundreds of joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments in your feet. This will atrophy the muscles and stiffen the joints leading to more pain, dysfunction and potential injury.

“Barefoot” Options

Some may say the barefoot options are silly looking or not fashionable.  Walking around dysfunctionally (which is visibly noticeable) and knowingly creating weak and painful feet sounds a lot more silly and unfashionable to me 😉 These shoes can wake up the sensory processors of the feet leading to huge changes in posture, function, performance and pain relief!

The transition to barefoot shoes must be gradual! Proper ankle mobility, arch strength, and hip stability are all musts before adding in barefoot wear to your workouts and outdoor adventures! Stay tuned, next week we’ll break down the most common movement pattern issues and how to get yourself strong enough to start transitioning to your new “barefoot” lifestyle!

Written By:

Robert Jost


Suggested Article:

Permanent Link: Is Your Lower Leg Mobility Plan As Effective As It Could Be?

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