At some point or other, you’ve probably heard the phrase “form follows function.” That famous saying is attributed to a Chicago architect named Louis Sullivan, who was a key figure in the Modernist architectural movement of the 1930’s. Not sure if you’re familiar with any of his architecture works? Well, if you have ever heard of skyscrapers, this man is considered the “father” of them.
When we’re discussing shoes and foot health, Sullivan’s phrase is rather appropriate. It doesn’t dismiss the “form” (how something looks), but rather implies that “function” (how something works) is simply more important. Given the facts that A) shoe choices and foot health have a certain connection and B) women are not going to stop wearing stylish footwear any time soon, both form and function matter.
Women’s Shoes Don’t Really Cause Problems!
After years of hearing about how horrible the latest pumps and stilettos are for your feet, you probably don’t expect to hear this from a podiatrist, but high heels do NOT cause bunions or other medical issues (unless a heel breaks and you sprain or fracture an ankle, or other catastrophic wardrobe malfunctions). In this type of show, form is everything and function is cast to the side. Fashion shoes are more like the Frank Lloyd Wright form of architecture.
The truth of the matter is that bunions are typically caused by either an inherited foot structure and biomechanical abnormalities. That said, excessive pressure on the front of the foot can potentially exacerbate an existing condition, which may help explain how the common misconception may have developed.
In addition to excessive pressure on the front of the foot, another issue with high-heeled shoes is the elevated position of the heel. It’s true this can possibly lead to issues, but something that is either unknown or ignored is the simple fact that a regular stretching regimen can take away any concern in this regard. Sure, stretching is about as exciting as watching paint dry (unless you’re a real paint-drying fanatic), but it is absolutely worth the time if you want to wear stilettos or pumps on a regular basis without developing problems. Not sure how to stretch properly? We have a video for that!
One final problem that—in spite of everyone saying otherwise—isn’t attributable to footwear is Haglund’s deformity. Even the more frequently used name (“pump bump”) is misleading. Whereas people think the condition is caused by rigid shoe backings, this is just not the case. The backs of shoes can irritate an existing problem, but they don’t cause it.
Athletic and Running Shoes: Avoiding the Bells and Whistles
Throughout the years, shoe manufactures have come up with all kinds of gimmicks and novelties to sell their footwear. From air to gel to springs (and beyond), it sometimes seems as though these companies have tried to jam every known substance in the universe into their shoes. That’s probably great for their marketing departments, but not necessarily as much for the runners who buy them.
In reality, the most important feature of a running shoe is one that is rarely, if ever, promoted – the heel counter.
Heel counters are plastic inserts used to reinforce the heel cup of a shoe. You cannot actually see the heel counter—it’s an internal feature covered by material—but it performs an essential function. A firm heel counter locks the foot in place (within the shoe) which controls foot motion and reduces over pronation. Gel or plastic heel cups that you can add to the shoe DO NOT give the same function.
When you are buying a new pair of running shoes, you can test the heel cup by pressing against the back of the shoe. If the model features a firm heel counter, there will be very little (if any) give. If the heel counter is flimsy, you can easily bend the back down (so it points towards the front of the shoe). This is also worth doing when you determine if your running shoes need to be replaced. A heel counter that has broken down over time can contribute to injuries like plantar fasciitis and posterior tibial tendinitis.
A common misconception with regards to running shoes is when individuals who have pain from overpronating think they need footwear with extra cushioning. This is absolutely not the case! What you need if you overpronate are shoes that do a better job of controlling the excess motion. The runners who need additional cushioning are those with high arches (cavus foot) who supinate.
No matter the sport—running or otherwise—an important consideration regarding foot health and footwear is that you choose shoes that can accommodate your orthotics, if you wear them. When we use orthotic therapy to address a problem, the orthotics only work when they are actually used. It’s a lot like if you have a pair of glasses – you can see better when they’re on, but take them off and you go back to having poor vision!
First-Class Foot Care in Indianapolis
Your shoes choices can affect your foot health to a certain degree, but more important is coming in to see your favorite go-to foot doctor when you have problems in a foot or ankle. Contact our Indianapolis office at the earliest opportunity whenever you experience pain or discomfort in your lower limbs. Early treatment can deliver optimal results, whereas allowing a problem to go unaddressed for an extended period of time could lead to even bigger problems.
When you have foot care needs, reach out to us and find out how we can help. Call us at (317) 545-0505 to request your appointment.