SHOES - PART I (Elevated Heel)
This post is the first from a series entitled From The Ground Up. The series will explore the human body and will provide information that everyone should know about their own body: basic anatomy, common injuries and most effective exercises to keep you strong, mobile and awesome.
You will have a better understanding of the human body than the vast majority of other people and you will learn how to apply your newfound knowledge. You will become a superior being with nothing to stop you from world domination and you will have the wisdom to politely correct people when they refer to the "rotator cup". Arrgh!
This topic will be divided into 4 parts due to sheer volume of information. It will also be the only non-body part that will be explored: SHOES. The perfect example of less is more.
Are you ready to stretch your brain? Zapatos, Chaussures, Schuhe, Topanky, Skoene - AKA:
"Natural gait is biomechanically impossible for any shoe-wearing person."
- Dr. William A. Rossi in a 1999 article in Podiatry Management
Imagine it's a beautiful Summer day and you are standing in a lush field of green grass. The sun is warming your face and you feel the earth under your...wait, you have on your big, clunky shoes and you feel nothing because 25mm of foam separates you from happiness. Now take those things off and chuck them. Dig your previously confined toesies into the earth. Feels nice, doesn't it?
Shoes are bad for you. They are a necessary evil in most of today's concrete world but barefoot is best. Shoes should serve one purpose: to protect our feet from dangerous items on the ground (rusty nails, broken glass, angry vipers, etc.) A flat, thin layer of protection and some twine is all you need.
However, shoe companies have hijacked this simple design by adding a bunch of foam to the sole, narrowing the toe box and adding unnecessary "support". This pure, simple thing has been bastardized until you have a SUS: Sport Utility Shoe. Traction! Stability Control! Smooth ride! Whaaat? Next will be bluetooth connectivity and an automatic rear lift gate.
Here's a headscratcher - in populations that live barefoot, foot problems do not exist. How are they not tragically crippled by their foam and arch support deficiency? Lemme 'splain.
The typical shoe of a first world country has 4 major flaws that I have creatively dubbed "The Four Flaws".
Hey there, nice foam...
Let's get into it.
A heel does not have to be a stiletto for it to cause significant issues. Any shoe where the heel is higher than the toe...has a heel! Therefore, it will pitch you forward and your body must compensate. Yes, even your favorite sneakers. If you don't believe me, take your sneakers and measure the height of the foam at the heel and then at the toe. What is the difference? Most sneakers have an elevation change between 8-13mm. Here is a great illustration, courtesy of William de Rossi's article "Why Shoes Make Normal Gait Impossible" -
If you were to wear heels and not compensate, you'd fall flat on your face
Here's the takeaway: The single most common and significant negative impact that a heel has on your body is postural compensation. Here is what happens every time you wear a shoe with a heel - remember, this applies to sneakers, men's dress shoes, etc.
Your new mantra should be: Heel higher than toe? It's a NO GO!
Why do shoes have heels? Women's shoes have heels to create height and shapelier legs. Men's dress shoes have heels because we ll used to be cowboys and needed them for stirrups and for when we'd jump off the horse and land on our heel - we needed more padding. I'm not joking. Giddyap, cowboy.
The Takeaway -
Problem: You're wearing heels! An elevated heel prevents normal standing, walking and exercise posture.
Action: Buy new shoes with no heel - "zero drop" shoes. I like Lems, Altra and Vivobarefoot. There are others, just look for the drop height when searching.
Difficulty: Easy. No effort required other than a little time to find the right shoe.
As always, I hope you will reach out to me with questions, constructive feedback or topics that you'd like to see explored.
NOTE: The second installment of the SHOES post will come shortly and we'll look at the dreaded narrow toe box.