Before I make my point, please, take your shoes off, jump up and down landing on the heels several times, run and during your strides land on your bare heels for 10 or more metres. Ok, you either did it and felt the tenderness in your heels, it was uncomfortable or you didn’t do it because you knew what awaited you.
Landing on your heels is what you’re being told to do by shoe manufacturers right? Well, at least that’s what they suggest if they’re not saying it, because they really make the heel of the shoe soft and squashy to reduce the impact and allow you to land on your heels while jumping or running.
What does this tell you? I know it tells me that we were not designed to stride and land on our heels!
Now let’s use the natural functionality of our body, jump up and land on the balls of your feet, let the calves take the impact. The same applies to natural walking, the type of walking we were meant to do, ball of feet first, calves taking the impact and lowering the heels in a controlled manner, pushing off the balls of the feet, again with the calves.
There is your knee (Patella), lower leg (Tibia and Fibula), ankle joint and then the foot which consists of so many bones, such an amazing complex structure with over twenty bones and even more joints. Why would it be designed so complex and then take away all it’s functionality with a shoe? The hands and feet are constructed on somewhat similar principles, now imagine your hands being wrapped all day long in a tight fitting glove with no fingers, dark, hot and sweaty, you would think it would affect your day to day abilities, right?
Lets talk about the calves and it’s function, the calves are designed to pull the heel up, also called plantar flexion, think of this as the toes pointing down, same as the heel coming off the ground. Now keep that image in your mind, ball of the foot pointing down and toes pointing back, contracted calves, you’re landing on the ball of your foot and slowly come onto your heels by releasing the calves (eccentric contraction). What you just experienced is the calves taking the impact for your heels! Another function of the calves is to protect your knees from impact.
To achieve this with shoes on you need to have a flexible shoe sole, many shoes do not have this flexibility or not in the right place. Lets also talk about toes, we all know that the more surface you cover the better your stability is, right? So cramped together toes provide the least amount of stability and will require other areas of your body to take over, spread out and free toes will allow them to do what they were made to do and that is provide support/stability.
I’ve worn quite a bit of different shoes in my life, mainly because they all felt uncomfortable and I kept on trying. The worst ones for me were Nike, they looked the best, and were the ‘in thing’ to have when being young, the best ones I found were Asics Gel Kayano, till this day still my favourite shoe when I need to wear shoes.
I train without shoes when I can, I wear no shoes when possible, flip flops if warm enough, Vibrams when I can afford them again, and don’t attend fancy dinners anymore where I need to wear tight_painful_awesome_looking_fancy_shiny shoes.
Changing your stride takes time, changing type of shoes you wear requires slow changes, perfecting the new movement requires research and understanding. Don’t blame the change if you have not followed the path of learning.
Last but not least, insoles, I’ve had some insoles back in my time, spend hundreds on them, and bloody oath did they hurt! Like walking on lego sometimes. What a waste of money that is too, total absolute bullcrap, to me it doesn’t make sense “your feet are weak, you need to put something in your shoe to compensate for that”, if your biceps are weak will you get a trolley system installed to make them stronger? No, you train them you quack solvers!
Your comments below or on this facebook post here.
PS. I’m no foot magician, I’m just someone who uses common sense, analyses experiences a lot and then go and put ideas and understanding to the test. I also train people with feet problems how to get stronger ankles, increase ankle flexibility plus more.
Also check out my article on best shoes for kettlebell training here.