When you have foot and ankle issues, the currently most commonly sought solution is to go to a podiatrist who will diagnose your condition and will likely recommend orthotics to correct the issue. Your feet may be assessed as being too flat, having plantar fasciitis, being inclined to overpronation, etc. Podiatrists attempt to assist you in fixing your ailment as swiftly as possible, prescribing you custom orthotics that serve as a brace for your foot, correcting the current issue.
Orthotics work by supporting the arch of the foot and helping to cue the brain to fire intrinsic muscles inside of the foot, which further supports the arch. This can lead to better tracking of the knee, hip, and pelvis, and ultimately help take pressure off of areas that become stressed as a result of foot/ankle dysfunction. However, accepting orthotics as the final step in seeking a solution would be like putting someone with a neck injury in a neck brace for life. The goal should be rehabilitating the foot to not need the brace any longer.
So while orthotics can be beneficial in the short term for temporary use, they can also have negative effects with long term use. With prolonged use, the foot and ankle can become reliant upon the support provided by the orthotics, and the muscles that should be supporting the arch may become weak and inactive. This can result in the need for orthotics to be worn continuously, which can limit the foot's natural range of motion and cause issues with walking without them.
This is why it is important to address the root cause of foot and ankle issues rather than relying solely on orthotics for support. The best way to prevent the need for long term orthotic use is to work on improving the mobility of the foot and ankle, as well as strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot to help support the arch. This can help to improve tracking and alignment of the rest of the body, reducing the need for ongoing orthotic support.
Without expertise in mobility, anatomy, manual physical therapy, and rehabilitation, this task can be daunting or impossible on your own. We help people get back on their feet- literally! No matter where you are on your journey with foot or ankle pain- whether beginning your journey to seek pain relief or years into wearing orthotics- we can help you regain your strength and freedom from pain and restricting footwear!
A Few Notes about the “Anti-Orthodic” and “Anti-Cushiony Shoe” Movement
The “barefoot movement” or “minimalist shoe movement” started decades ago as science and research began increasingly showing the importance of strengthening the muscles in the foot and ankle for optimal performance, balance, and overall health. Proponents of this movement argue that traditional shoes, with their thick soles and arch support, weaken the muscles in the foot and ankle, leading to a greater risk of injury and a loss of natural range of motion.
Barefoot shoes are designed to provide minimal support and protection while still allowing the foot to move naturally. These shoes typically have thin soles and little to no arch support, allowing the foot to function as it was designed to. The philosophy behind the barefoot shoe movement is that by wearing shoes that promote natural movement and strengthen the muscles in the foot and ankle, individuals can improve their balance, stability, and overall foot health.
The barefoot shoe movement has been shown to benefit individuals of all ages, including the elderly. A study published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity found that older adults who participated in a barefoot exercise program had significant improvements in balance and functional mobility compared to those who did not.
Furthermore, the barefoot shoe movement has also been associated with a lower risk of injury. A study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that runners who wore minimalist shoes had a lower risk of injury compared to those who wore traditional shoes with arch support.
However, you cannot just decide to go barefoot or into minimalist style shoe without a transition period. We can help you build the range of movement and strength needed to start ditching orthotics and cushiony shoes all together.
Barefoot Movement for Longevity and Aging
The barefoot shoe movement can be particularly beneficial for the elderly, as it helps to promote balance, mobility, and longevity. Aging can lead to a decline in foot health, and traditional shoes with thick soles and arch support can exacerbate this decline by weakening the muscles in the foot and ankle. Barefoot shoes, on the other hand, promote natural movement and can help to strengthen the muscles in the foot and ankle, improving balance and reducing the risk of falls.
Research has shown that the barefoot and minimalist shoe movement can be an effective way to strengthen the muscles in the foot and ankle. A study published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research found that participants who wore minimalist shoes for 10 weeks had significantly stronger intrinsic foot muscles compared to those who wore traditional shoes with arch support.
One of the primary benefits of barefoot shoes for the elderly is improved balance. As individuals age, their sense of balance can become impaired, leading to a higher risk of falls and subsequent injuries. By promoting natural movement and strengthening the muscles in the foot and ankle, barefoot shoes can help to improve balance and reduce the risk of falls. A study published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity found that older adults who participated in a barefoot exercise program had significant improvements in balance and functional mobility compared to those who did not.
In addition to improving balance, barefoot shoes can also help to maintain mobility in the elderly. As individuals age, they may experience a loss of natural range of motion, particularly in the feet and ankles. By promoting natural movement and strengthening the muscles in the foot and ankle, barefoot shoes can help to maintain mobility and flexibility, reducing the risk of joint pain and stiffness. This can ultimately lead to improved longevity and quality of life in the elderly.
Furthermore, barefoot shoes can also help to reduce the risk of foot injuries in the elderly. Traditional shoes with thick soles and arch support can weaken the muscles in the foot and ankle, leading to a higher risk of injury. Barefoot shoes promote natural movement and can help to strengthen the muscles in the foot and ankle, reducing the risk of injuries such as sprains, strains, and plantar fasciitis.
Thus, the barefoot shoe movement can be particularly beneficial for the elderly, as it helps to promote balance, mobility, and longevity. By promoting natural movement and strengthening the muscles in the foot and ankle, barefoot shoes can help to improve balance, maintain mobility, and reduce the risk of foot injuries, ultimately leading to improved quality of life in the elderly.
To Learn More about Minimalist Shoes
A great podcast for getting started learning about minimalist shoes and how they can address and relieve years of foot issues: Podcast (on Youtube) about Barefoot Shoes
Instagram reviews of minimalist shoes: Anya’s Reviews- Instagram
A personal story of foot pain and relief: Anya’s Website
Conclusion on Orthotics and Developing Stronger Feet
While orthotics can be helpful in the short term, they should not be relied upon as a long term solution. Addressing the underlying issues causing foot and ankle dysfunction through mobility and strength training is the most effective way to prevent the need for prolonged orthotic use, and we can get you there!