Biomechanically, walking upright on two legs and two feet is extremely complex. Example: each time your heel lifts off the ground, it forces your toes to carry one half of your body weight.
Foot problems require special attention and can often be your first sign of more serious medical issues. Both poor biomechanics and improperly fitted shoes and lead to surface injuries. Tending to them right away will keep you walking for the long-term.
Jeff Cowen, a Toronto chiropodist known as the Foot Guru, says these days he’s seeing more patients experiencing continuous trauma to the nail, either from a mis-sized shoe or from your foot sliding forward. There can be many other underlying issues at play, like a drop forefoot arch. For this reason, Cowen recommends seeing a chiropodist in order to identify possible mechanical problems.
“I’ve seldom seen a perfect body structure – the biomechanical alignment of your body from the top of your head, through your body’s center, to the bottom of your feet,” he says. “The reality is, nobody is perfectly aligned. There are pelvic and leg length imbalances where one foot takes more pressure than the other. Those small imbalances over thousands of steps can turn into repetitive strain or biomechanical problems, which often lead to a variety of ailments like calluses, corns, knee pain, bunions, tendonitis, etc.”
“Your feet mirror your general health,” notes the Ontario Society of Chiropodists. “Such conditions as arthritis, diabetes, nerve and circulatory disorders can show their initial symptoms in the feet — so foot ailments can be your first sign of more serious medical problems.”
As for running shoes versus walking shoes?
Cowen suggests that as a patient ages and for general walking on sidewalks, streets, and any paved surfaces (not trails), a good running shoe is perfect due to the combination of support and cushioning. While a good walking shoe can work, typically these have stiffer soles that, given fat-pad loss in the forefoot areas, often provide less cushioning. He advises most of his patients to invest in a good running shoe for walking.
“I tell my patients that if a real running shoe is good enough to run a marathon, it’s good enough to wear to walk around the neighborhood,” he says.
There are also new hybrid options of walking/running shoes that combine the look of a walking shoe with the support and cushioning of a running shoe.
FOOT CHECK UP
So, when was the last time your feet had a check-up?
• After walking, remove your socks, dry your feet and apply some moisturizing cream.
• Check your feet for blisters.
• Massage your foot by rolling it over a tennis ball.
• Trim your toenails straight across.
• Treat those puppies to an Epsom salt bath.