A Health Hazard: Could your shoes be the cause of your pain?
Shoes are worn for a variety of reasons. Few may ever ponder the possibility that shoe types often wreak havoc with other parts of the body. A group of researchers opted to take a closer look at common shoe types and the problems they cause.
Inexpensive, convenient and cool in the summer, when the weather turns warm, the flip-flops come out. With a mere strap positioned between the toes to keep them from falling off, the constant gripping motion imparted on the foot inhibits the arch to flex normally. The action also prevents the foot from pushing off normally when stepping forward. Testing revealed that under these conditions, the knees and hips absorb more impact than normal, while the backs of legs and buttocks remain virtually unaffected and unused. This shortened gait may eventually lead to lower back fatigue and discomfort.
While flats may seem like a healthier alternative, slipper to casual canvas varieties are not without potential problems. Flat shoes often lack sufficient, internal arch support. This lack of support leads to overstretching of ligaments and tendons, which leads to fallen arches. Casual flats also often lack sufficient cushioning, putting up to 25% more pressure on the heels. These drawbacks may create pain in the ball or heel of the foot when walking or the painful condition known as plantar fasciitis.
Popular for decades, these shoes typically accentuate calf muscles, lift backsides and add inches while offering a slenderized look. However, Danish researchers found that wearing heels repeatedly led to a sixfold increase for the risk of developing osteoarthritis. Wearing heels tilts the body forward, which causes the knees to bend slightly and the back to arch. As a result, the quadriceps work overtime, leading to tightening and possible injury. Having to walk with knees continually flexed also adds an enormous amount of stress to kneecaps. This action often damages delicate cartilage. The excess height additionally strains shin muscles and can lead to shin splints. By chronically shortening calf muscles, permanent atrophy may occur.
Commonly equipped with “rocker” or rounded soles, the design reportedly enhances calorie burn and increased muscle activity. However, the rigid construction of the soles inhibits natural arch flexing. Eventually, arches flatten, which causes the knees, hips and lower back to absorb more of the shock, leading to foot, leg, hip and back pain. Tests demonstrate that the shoes actually work buttock and thigh muscles less effectively than conventional sneakers.
Consumers may offset possible hazardous effects by stretching the foot, leg and back at the end of the day. Nonetheless, shopping smarter to begin with spares the potential for injury in the long run.