Why won’t people go barefoot? I have heard a multitude of reasons, but am going to breakdown just the most common ones for you in today’s blog.
“I pronate, which is a bad thing.” I have SO many patients that come to me and say that they “pronate” and that’s why they have their problems. Let’s clarify; pronation is a NORMAL part of the gait cycle (the cycle of taking one step forward). This is where the ankle looks like it’s rolling inward. The opposite of pronation is suppination or where the ankle looks like it’s rolling outward. This too is a NORMAL part of the gait cycle. Where we run into problems is when these 2 components of the gait cycle get out of rhythm. They both are suppose to happen but in certain timings of the gait cycle. People have also heard that they “over-pronate.” This is what they call it when your ankle always seem to be rolling inward. This actually could be a problem. The opposite would be “over-suppinaiton” or when the ankle always seems to be rolling outward, which can too be potentially problematic. The take home here though is that the foot and ankle are suppose to go through both of these motions while taking a step forward. The key is they need to happen in a normal rhythmic fashion.
“I have flat feet.” Ok, well this could be potentially problematic as well. What I have learned though through my clinical experience is that things aren’t always as them seem. Meaning, just because the foot may appear like it’s flat doesn’t mean that the foot is not functioning properly. It’s like me saying without seeing x-rays of a patient’s back that they have too much curve in their low back. You have no idea what the bones look like underneath all of the skin, fat, muscle and other tissues that make up the body. Does that make sense? So, I will make a note that a patient appears to have a flat foot, but I’m more interested in if the foot can actually function properly. This means that the foot behaves properly while going through the gait cycle that I mentioned above. I test the musculature of the feet to see if it’s firing properly and also look at the alignment of the 27 bones of the foot to see if they are all moving properly. If both of these systems are in check, then the “flat” foot is actually functioning just fine. If not, then we work on both of these systems to restore them back to harmony so that the foot can once again function normally.
“I have orthotics and was told that I can never go barefoot again.” Doesn’t that just sound wrong when you read it to yourself? I know that there are plenty of you out there that are in orthotics and have been told this indeed. I believe that orthotics serve a purpose, but I don’t believe that we were meant to have to live in them for the rest of our lives. They, just like a brace for the knee, are suppose to be a temporary splint that the body needs while it repairs or we re-train it to function properly again. I have used orthotics for patients that suffer from a severe case of plantar fascitis, which is severe pain on the bottom of the heel. The reason why they’re used in this situation is to help reduce the inflammation of the plantar fascia. To explain more, a common reason why you get plantar fascitis is due to the muscles of the foot not coordinating the movement of the bones in the foot. When this happens, you can picture the bones crashing down on the plantar fascia with every step, which will eventually irritate that tissue. What an orthotic does is block the motion of the foot, meaning it keeps the bones from crashing down on the plantar fascia, which would obviously decrease the stress on that tissue and calm down the inflammation. This is great, but if we don’t re-train the muscles how to control the movement of the bones in the feet, you will have to wear the orthotics for the rest of your life. Ok, so back to the point…did you read the part just mentioned where it says orthotics block the motion of the foot? This is where the problem comes in. The foot was designed to absorb shock that’s produced with every step we take. Now, if we keep the foot from doing it’s job by wearing an orthotic, then the feet are not going to be absorbing shock with every step, right? So where do you think we absorb that shock? It doesn’t just simply go away…we start absorbing it in other joints in are body that were not designed to absorb that shock. What is this going to do to those joints long term? I would say that it’s going to cause extra wear and tear on those joints, which is going to help deteriorate them and cause inflammation in them, which will lead to pain.
I hope that this information helps to stimulate your brain to start asking more questions. Please let me know what questions you have about going barefoot and I will answer them to the best of my capability.