The Importance of Having Fitted Feet
By Kimberly Dunbar
If you’ve been thinking about stepping up your gait to a jog (after consulting with a physician to make sure it’s a safe option for you), or even to a more vigorous walk, you’re not alone. According to Running USA’s 2012 State of the Sport report, more than 50 million runners hit the pavement at least once a week in 2011 ~ a 7.3 percent increase from the previous year. Locally, the inaugural Worcester Marathon and third Worcester Half Marathon this past June also grew in participation since 2011.
But before you join the crowds, make sure you’re putting your best foot forward by exercising in the right shoe ~ it could mean the difference between success and injury.
According to Dr. Neil J. Feldman (pictured), a podiatrist at Central Mass Podiatry as well as a seasoned runner and triathlete, if you don’t have a shoe that works with your foot type, then your foot will have to work against its natural design. “This will create extra work for the body and could lead to the development of early arthritis, sore joints and neuromas among other problems,” he warns.
Plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot) and Achilles tendonitis (inflammation of the Achilles tendon) are probably the most common injuries Dr. Feldman sees in patients of all ages who are runners ~ or all levels. Conditions like these are often results of running in shoes that don’t support the foot properly or running with poor form. For example, many runners ~ from teens to older adults ~ suffer from overpronation, which is when the foot rolls inward more than it should, and need a shoe with extra support.
“It takes a lot of time and effort to break bad habits that have been in play since childhood,” Dr. Feldman said about perfecting one’s form. “If you are motivated and able to find someone who understands what it takes, then it is possible.”
In the meantime, finding a shoe that fits is simple ~ many specialty stores offer a free gait analysis, the process of analyzing a runner’s skeletal and muscular mechanics. During these sessions, an employee will watch a customer run or walk on a treadmill, and based on mechanics and movement, help him or her find the proper shoe.
And although sometimes the proper shoe can mean spending a little more money on footwear, Dr. Feldman said it’s not always the case. “It’s worth investing in the right shoe for your foot, whatever that may be,” he said. “A more expensive shoe is not necessarily a better shoe as it depends on the individual.”
For some, the best way to go is with bare feet, which is what Dr. Feldman considers the ideal running shoe. “The beauty of running barefoot is that it doesn’t allow for bad form,” he explained. “If you heel strike barefoot, you hurt, simple as that.”
Dr. Feldman added that running barefoot or with Vibram FiveFinger shoes (a minimalist shoe meant to replicate being barefoot) might not work for everyone. Ultimately, he said, the perfect shoe is one that “…allows my foot to be the foot it was intended to be.”
For more of Dr. Feldman’s advice, visit www.drfeldman.blogspot.com.
Vibram FiveFinger shoes photo (above) courtesy of www.absurdintellectual.com.