Or, more accurately, they make your feet dumb. How? Overprotection. Turns out all that complicated foam and rubber designed to support your arch and insulate your feet from the impact of your movement…actually does the opposite. It changes your walking/running mechanics in ways that actually create more impact. As a result your feet and ankles become weaker and more injury-prone.
In a solid piece last year for Forbes, Adam Barsouk breaks down the emerging science around modern athletic footwear. Namely, that by wrapping our feet in a cushioned, arch-supporting “cast” from an early age, the foot and ankle never fully develop. This leads to chronic pain, flat-footedness, and steady work for orthopedic surgeons. Popular works of non-fiction, such as Christopher McDougall’s instant classic Born To Run, have helped inform the public debate around shoes and kicked off a movement towards leaner, less supportive “minimalist” footwear (aided by the inexplicable popularity of these hideous things).
Trash My Shoes Then? Not So Fast.
Every trend has a backlash, however. Just as you would expect, large numbers of folks are now being treated for injuries after switching from “maximalist” footwear to minimal without changing their training. This is like taking a cast off an arm after several weeks and immediately trying to lift heavy weights even though it’s clearly atrophied. What did you think would happen? The same goes for our “casted” feet, except this atrophy has, typically, been taking place for years or, more likely, decades.
Here at MonkeyStyle we’re big fans of re-training our clients’ feet intelligently, giving them time to develop strength and restore the arch to its natural, higher form (as most have flattened). The benefits of this transition are numerous – improved balance, less knee and back pain, greater awareness/presentness when in motion, to name just a few.
Are you looking to make the switch to a lighter, more mobile shoe, but wary of injuring your weakened feet? Good! Then take our advice and start slow. Here’s a simple, reliable foot mobilization routine you can do every other day:
Step 1: Take off shoes
Step 2: Near a wall (for safety), stand on one foot for 90 seconds. Then do the other foot.
Step 3: Roll the arch of your foot over a ball for 60 seconds per foot. Not so hard that it hurts, but not so light that it feels like nothing.
Step 4: Repeat steps 1 to 3, every other day.
Voila! It’s that simple. Prolonged one-legged standing is one of the best and safest ways towards strong, self-reliant feet and ankles. By the time you can easily stand on one leg for a minute without wobbling significantly, you’ll be ready to spend more time playing and less time injured.
Want to learn more? Drop us a line!