Everyone appreciates a well-turned heel. Isn’t that the case? We have all marvelled at a woman who can shimmy her way down a cobble stone street in a pair of Manolo Blohniks with a flowing gown and a posterior that looks like its been chiselled from a statue. Where am I going with this – meh I’m having images of women in Paris floating down an avenue with effortless ease only to be undone with the painful conditions that can be wrought from wearing certain inappropriate footwear. The other image that comes to mind can be the gentle shuffle and demure grace of a Geisha as she goes about her day with elegant grace and diminutive charm, denying to the viewer of ever realising that her feet are enduring a cruel undertaking of crushing foot binding. Is there a difference?
The reason for this obsession with footwear images and how they make us move and sashay away is that the choices we make in terms of our footwear. Our feet are what we stand, they are our connection to the earth and the foundation upon which we stand. A lot of the work that is done with lower backs, ankles, knees, legs and even necks, can sometimes be traced to our feet. It’s so important that we have a good alignment through the foot which then serves to balance the rest of our rather haphazard skeletal structure on top. For if we truly look at the body from a geometrical or architectural viewpoint – how on earth we stand and walk a single step does deny some pretty amazing physics! We aren’t exactly straight lines and methodically structured bolster joints.
So when issues with the metatarsals (the long bones in our feet) have full impact on how we move. SO returning to my image of the red dressed woman in high heels owning the cobble stone street in Paris, these poor women can sometimes be brought asunder by the fact that they create issues later on in life. One such condition presented itself in my clinic last week in the form of a Morton’s Neuroma. This condition is a swelling of the tendon sheath that lies in the metatarsals (long bones towards the toes) that creates pain and inflammation. This usually occurs in between the 2nd/3rd or 3rd/4th digits and is usually found in the ‘web’ between these two bones. Now we aren’t ducks but we do have a ‘web space’ between our toes (yes those images in Harry Potter and the effects of Gillyweed do have a foundation in human anatomy) and this space creates a channel for the nerves of the foot to lie in.
A Morton’s Neuroma is a thickening of the plantar nerve that innervates the sole of the foot. Rather than the neuroma being a tumour or growth (as the anatomical term implies), the Morton’s Neuroma is a thickening of the sheath (or sock) that surrounds the plantar nerve. So rather than it being a pebble in your foot, it is the surrounding tissue of the nerve that becomes irritated and creates swelling that then impedes function.
The symptoms are said to be like walking on a pebble in your shoe. This can also create shooting nerve pain into the foot along the affected toes. Numbness and paraesthesia (prickly heat, unexplained sensation, tickling) also present in the condition. The way that these wonderful crafted women’s fashion shoes (or oddly Cowboy Boots) often make the toes come together and throw the body of weight onto the distal (end) part of the toes can create this inflammation and stress that results in the condition.
So changing shoes is one way of dealing with the condition. And it is odd that this causes all manner of concern among some people (no not just women) who desire to wear their fashion heels who don’t want to forego their choice of footwear as they strut their stuff. As with any inflammatory condition it is all about getting that inflammation down. Reducing the irritation is paramount. There are many approaches to this from ice, analgesics or anti inflammatory medication. For my part as soon as you mention inflammation I go to my acupuncturist. Chinese medicine and acupuncture has a direct way of treating inflammation and heat within the body.
Once the inflammation is managed it is then time to start returning to the causes of the condition. This comes down to your foot. How do you use your foot and how to better align it. Orthotics are one option, soft tissue therapy can definetly help as well as using massage techniques. But the real way to get any soft tissue to align is to TRAIN it. The foot is amazingly complex with some 26 bones and a wide number of tendons, ligaments and muscles that all allow for a great deal of articulation. If we don’t use these soft tissues, they don’t remain toned. Just as you want to tone your midsection, you want to tone your foot. THAT means using them, and as I have said before getting barefoot and using your foot on the ground is vital to ensuring good foot health. http://maxremedial.com/blog/2017/5/12/foot-strike?rq=foot
The nerves and proprioceptors of the foot were designed to give us bio feedback – that means that we need to stimulate our feet to ensure that our body gets important feedback as to where it is standing, how it is moving and even how we are connecting to the rhythms of the earth around us. The case for barefoot running has been widely advocated and debated in running circles, but the debate goes further than just running. Normal walking and the development of the gait is highly tuned to us using our sensory areas on our foot to gain information and learn how to distribute our weight evenly. Thus - we need to kick off our shoes and let our feet be free! Doing actions, training, running, leaping walking on pebbles are all important aspects of 'training' our feet to be agile, nimble and responsive. Use it or Lose it indeed!
There's a whole wealth of research and scientific support for development of the sensory areas of the body and the advocation of propriception techniques to develop an awareness of how our body moves and responds. The importance of this in the foot and in particular on the sole of the foot is huge and cannot be ignored. So to be blunt - we need to appreciate the elegance of a well turned heel and a graceful catwalk strut, but at the same time its equally as important that we kick off the shoes, get barefoot and run, walk and step on the sand, the earth and the mud. This type of biomechanic feedback is VITAL to our mechanics as a biped and moving human skeleton.