Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Runners need to take care of their FEET!

When we walk or run, our body goes through a complex set of steps that makes movement seem smooth and easy. It’s actually a complex cycle called the “gait” or walking cycle. A smooth walking or gait cycle means that the forces from the ground should be absorbed by your heels and feet each time you take a step. Energy from the ground and healthy movement is transferred through the feet up into ankles, knees, hips and into the spine, all the way up to the head.

Foot anatomy also plays an important role in foot function. For example, do you know how many arches each foot has? If you answered one, you answered like 95 percent of people do – incorrectly. Each foot actually has three arches: one on the inside of the foot, one on the outside and one across the ball of the foot. These arches are all important and must all be functioning properly to facilitate healthy movement and weight-bearing.

When our feet do not have the arch support we now know to be so important, our bodies can start having problems. These problems can start innocently enough, but the consequences can be severe. Here are a few of the common problems that can affect your feet:

If your arches are too high or over-supported, we call this “excessive supination.” A more common occurrence is something called “excessive pronation,” which means the arches actually fall toward the floor or flatten out. More serious conditions attributable to foot dysfunction include plantar fascitis (inflammation of the thick tissue on the bottom of the heel), Achilles tendinitis (inflammation of the Achilles tendon), Morton’s neuroma (thickening of nerve tissue between the third and fourth toes, causing sharp pain on the ball of the foot), anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, arthritis, and hip and lower back pain.

There are many factors that affect your feet (for better or worse). Here are a few:

Genetics: You cannot outrun your genes. Flat feet or excessively pronating feet run in families. Parents pass it on to their children. If one parent has flat or collapsed arches, their children will have it also to some degree. If both parents have overpronated feet, their kids will absolutely have flat feet as well. I check children for this around age 7.

Surfaces: Concrete and stone are the worst surfaces for the feet. Generally, the harder the surface, the more stress on the arches and the faster they will collapse. Dirt, rubber tracks, carpeting and grass are all softer surfaces that offer some cushion to the feet and help to reduce strain and shock.

Shoe types: If you look inside almost every shoe, sandal, flip-flop, boot, etc., you will notice that there may be some inner arch support. Hardly any shoe has outer arch support or support for the arch under the ball of the foot. For this reason, looking for “good” shoes is often a myth.

We spend much of our lives taking our feet for granted – if we are lucky. If we’re not, we suffer one or more of the painful, often debilitating conditions that can affect the feet. That’s why your feet are so important and why you need to take care of them. Talk to your doctor about the importance of foot health and what you can do to ensure the stability of your foundation- your feet.

Melissa and Jason Braswell at the Run Big Running Company in Kailua-Kona can also be a good resource for us runners looking for the right fit that avoid possible serious foot related injuries.


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July 12, 2011 Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment