With the warmer weather finally here to stay many of us are anxious to get outside and hit the pavement and trails to torch some calories while enjoying the outdoors. Although our basic anatomy hasn’t changed, shoes, running and training techniques and nutrition theories are constantly changing. Popular fitness magazines will tell you one thing on page 20 and something totally opposite on page 63, leaving many people scratching their collective heads. One of latest fads is the barefoot or minimalist shoes movement- wearing very sparsely supported shoes to run and train. Is this a good idea? In theory it’s great- less support means your foot and ankle muscles have to work to support you and they become stronger and you are forced to run on the balls of your feet as there is no cushy heel which is more efficient… but unfortunately most of us grew up wearing cushioned running shoes and learned to run crashing down on our heels. To make a sudden switch to barefoot/minimalist type shoes may be asking for trouble. What kind of trouble? Some of the problems I have treated stemming from the switch include:
- Stress fractures of the heel, forefoot and shin
- Tendonitis of muscles on the sides of the ankle
- Plantar fasciitis
- Heel pain (spur and fat pad irritation)
- Patellofemoral (knee cap) pain
A detailed biomechanical scan of your lower body from the low back down to your toes (your big toes is extremely important to normal walking and running) can expose potential issues before they become painful and limiting. Addressing imbalances and improper mechanics will also improve the efficiency of your gait and running pattern so that you can get the workout you need to reach your goals. Advice on how to transition to a minimalist shoe – if it’s appropriate for you (it may not be for everyone!) can then be custom tailored to your needs. We are all unique- from the musculoskeletal components we inherited to the posture/lifestyle we have lead all contribute to our unique biomechanics. “Cookie-cutter” advice given as a one-size-fits-all formula simply is not enough.
If you are to invest time and money into running and buying shoes etc to better your health- take it one step further (pun intended) and check out what we have to offer from our Foot Clinic, and Sports Physiotherapy services:
Foot Clinic – Kristen Nicol is our Registered Chiropodist with a background in Kinesiology and Human Kinetics. She was in competitive Highland dance for 20+ years and is an avid runner.
Physiotherapy – Yusuf Bangee has over 13 years of experience treating musculoskeletal injuries with Orthopaedic manual therapy, acupuncture, and corrective exercises. He has completed the Intermediate Level of The Orthopedic Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association and is working towards his Advanced diploma in Manual Therapy to become a Fellow of The Canadian Academy of Manipulative Therapists.