Lockdown and the Pandemic: A case for good footwear
So Covid is back, and it means business. But I guess our bubble couldn’t last for ever. And now here we are. Another lockdown. But as essential workers at ACT Podiatry, it’s off to work we go. Social distancing. More frequent hand sanitising. And now mandatory mask wearing, so we can all share in the joys of foggy glasses.
But what about those of you stuck at home? Are you unknowingly setting yourselves up to become victim to another pandemic that lurks among the shadows of your tiled kitchen floor? It is of course foot pain we’re talking about here. Foot pain can seriously affect mobility, and have a significant effect on quality of life.
Foot Pain and the Pandemic
If you read my previous blog ‘Foot Pain and the Pandemic’ you will be all over this. Your feet are comfortably situated in a pair of supportive slippers (or better still, in a decent pair of shoes), and the only time you spend barefooted is in bed, or resting on the coach as you are now. If however, you’ve been going about your business sporting bare feet, and slip into your Havana’s when you nip out to IGA to get milk, wine and other lockdown essentials, you need to read on!
Last year we saw an influx of patients presenting to ACT Podiatry for the first time complaining of foot pain. Mainly heel and arch pain associated with the increased amount of time spent at home and barefooted during lockdown. And if not barefooted, in flimsy slippers or casual sneakers, as opposed to the more protective footwear. And whilst your usual shoe choices might not be perfect, almost anything is better than nothing. (I say almost anything… Thongs are the exception. They offer no support and encourage your toes to claw as you subconsciously attempt to grip whilst walking. Thongs are good only for preventing fungal infections at the swimming pool. Those which offer some arch support are marginally better than the basic model Havana, but they are still thongs and should not be worn for extensive periods of weight baring activity).
“But what about minimalist footwear?” Sure, like thongs, they have their place. For young children, footwear than mimics the sensations and movement of being barefooted are important for proprioception and normal development. But as far as most of us are concerned, the evidence is against spending prolonged periods barefooted, or in minimalist footwear. For more discussion on minimalist footwear please refer to my blog ‘Barefoot Walking and Minimalist Footwear: Is it a Good Idea?‘.
If you are used to walking barefooted for extensive periods and do not experience any adverse symptoms, you are probably one of the lucky ones with a perfectly formed arch, and ‘normal’ foot mechanics of the sort they write about in textbooks. But we don’t see many of these feet at ACT Podiatry.
The Process of Evolution and Adaptation
To understand why more enclosed footwear are superior in preventing foot pain, we need to understand about the mechanics of the foot. I.e., how the feet work to transmit the forces created during locomotion and standing through the ground. We also need to consider human evolution and the changes in our environment over the last few hundred years. No longer are we tiny people foraging for foods among soft grasslands.
The foot is a complex dynamic structure consisting of 26 bones and 30 joints. There are four layers of muscles within the foot as well as multiple tiny ligaments and tendons. The foot is capable of shock absorption and propulsive power, and if the mechanics of these functions fails, foot pain and deformity can rapidly ensue. Foot pain, and heel pain especially, are extremely common. Almost anyone can be affected at some time in their lives, and is more prevalent in situations where the feet are being placed under increased demand. Athletes, people who are overweight, and those who stand a lot at work, for example. Within these groups, injury is more likely when the changes in demand occur quickly without giving the body time to adapt. They become fatigued, strained and injured.
Footwear that encloses and supports the feet help to absorb and reduce the forces acting on the feet. They give the feet a home advantage. And let’s face it, people are getting heavier. And standing on hard man-made surfaces doesn’t help.
No Pain is Normal
Foot pain often gets ignored at first. It may be attributed to the normal part of the aging process. But take heed. If you are spending a lot of time out of your usual footwear and your feet are beginning to complain…. put your shoes back on!
If your foot pain is more severe and hasn’t responded to a change in footwear within a few days, we would strongly suggest you visit ACT Podiatry for assessment and diagnosis. Head over to my previous blog for a more extensive discussion on this subject, or to Happy Fit Footwear to check out our range of podiatrist approved footwear!