Below are the thoughts of Jim Hixon manages the Feet for Life – Motion Center for Michael Horwitz, DPM.
Our goal is to make the Motion Center a leader in the effort to change the way we think about our feet and the connection they have with the movement of the rest of the body. We believe that by improving the strength, stability and flexibility of the feet, rather than developing a dependency on stable shoes and orthotics, it is possible to recover from current ailments and reduce or prevent future injuries. Healthy feet allow a person to move more naturally, and scientists agree that there is a direct correlation between movement patterns and the incidence of common ailments such as plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, shin splints, iliotibial band syndrome, patellar femoral pain, and lower back pain. Change can be made relatively easily and quickly by through a transition from traditional shoes to minimal shoes.
Here is his recent piece on natural running:
The development of all species is dependent upon the survival of the fittest, that is to say, individuals who possess the essential traits that enable them to adapt to their environment will be able to reproduce successfully and pass their genetic material on to future generations.
Locomotion is an essential trait for all animals, since the ability to move in order to obtain nourishment and avoid predators is necessary to insure the survival of individuals and, therefore, species.
As a species humans have developed physical characteristics that are resistant to dysfunction and injury, which allow them to stand, walk, run, and jump on two legs without external support.
Any restriction of the range of motion of the joints involved in locomotion leads to dysfunctional movements that decrease biomechanical efficiency and increase the chances of injury.
Any diminishment in the sensory information available to the body during movement prevents the body from being able to accurately discriminate changes in surfaces, which also leads to decreased biomechanical efficiency and increased risk of injury.
The sole of the foot is the direct contact between the body and the ground and this contact provides the body with essential information to move safely and efficiently.
In order to move without restriction and receive essential sensory information it is best for the body to be in its natural state, that is to say barefoot, as long as the sole of the foot can be protected from injuries caused by sharp or rough surfaces, and from extreme temperatures.
When the barefoot condition cannot be maintained, the type of shoe worn should fit the anatomy and function of the foot, that is to say, it should fit the shape of the foot and allow the foot to move with as little restriction as possible.
Traditional athletic, casual, and dress shoes have characteristics which negatively affect the position of the foot in relation to the ground and do not allow the foot to move with freedom of movement or receive the maximum amount of sensory information possible.
The structure of traditional shoe partially immobilizes the foot, which then becomes muscularly weak and imbalanced.
The thick sole of a traditional shoe also desensitizes the foot and prevents it from accurately detecting changes in surface hardness and texture.
Although orthotics can be useful for brief periods of convalescence from certain injuries, their continued use increases the dependency on external support caused by wearing traditional shoes.
Therefore, wearing traditional shoes, especially with orthotics, decreases efficient biomechanical patterns of movement and these dysfunctional patterns increase the likelihood of injuries.
To avoid the problems associated with wearing traditional shoes it is better to be barefoot or wear minimal shoes, although individuals with weakened and desensitized feet often need a period of transition.