6% of Americans have fleet. In the UK, it is one in every ten. The thing is – flat feet and overpronation is becoming more and more common. But is this the same everywhere else in the world?
The incidence of flat feet, especially among children is much lower in the developing world, especially in South Asia. But why?
What is it that people in India and Bangladesh are doing right which the Americans and the English are doing wrong?
The answer, as medical researchers found, was that the people in the developing world wore shoes. While people in South Asia often went without.
A study in India of children who went around unshod often as compared to children who wore shoes regularly clearly shows that wearing shoes could be one of the major causes of overpronaton and flat feet!
Let’s see how shoes cause flat feet and overpronation.
Growing Up Years
As we well know, man did not evolve wearing shoes. Walking bare-feet is an essential part of training the feet. When you walk unshod, your feet act as a sense organ, transmitting knowledge about the texture of the terrain to your brain. You can then modify our gait and our individual steps accordingly. Making sure that every step you take is the right step for the right kind of ground. Your posture is better, the way your body reacts to the stress of walking is also perfect.
This is essential especially in small children. Children who walk unshod grow up to be better walkers. While those who spend their early years wearing shoes not only do not learn this skill perfectly but end up damaging their feet. The result – flat feet and overpronation.
The Shape of the Feet
In ancient china, women were made to wear extremely tight shoes since childhood so that they could have tiny feet. Pretty to look at. But impossible to walk with. This created a class of noble ladies who were also cripples.
As it was then with China, so it is now with the rest of the world.
True, we do not confine our feet in extremely tight wooden clogs. However because of lifelong wearing of shoes, our feet do become deformed – without us even knowing it.
People who spend a lot of time without shoes tend to have broader feet, better suited to take the weight of the body. Feet where the pressure is distributed over a larger area.
While for the rest of us who wear shoes – our feet never get a chance to grow to their full potential. Greatly increasing the chance of different kind of foot maladies. Yes, including flat feet and overpronation.
Exercise, the lack thereof
When our cavemen ancestors walked over uneven surfaces their feet would adapt and move, flex and stretch according to the ground they were walking on. Walking barefoot is probably the best exercise for the feet. It is the only way that the arch and its supporting muscles develop fully.
However when we wear shoes all the time, most of the foot remains unused. Because shoes make every surface uniform, the same part of the foot gets exercised over and over again. While the rest remain inactive and atrophy. This could lead to severe dysfunction of the ankles and arch. Resulting in flat feet and of course overpronation.
How shoes affect us
Some shoes cause more damage, some less. The damage that shoes do to your feet can depend greatly upon the design of the shoes you wear and the way they fit you. Let us a have a look at how shoes cause flat feet and overpronation in different ways.
The toebox is where the fingers of the feet come together inside a shoe. Most shoes have toebox which taper – which means that the toes are all compressed together. Now take a look at your toes. Your big toe is big for a reason. It plays an important role in helping us balance and walk upright (therefore humans have big toes and other primates that cannot walk upright, like gorillas don’t).
When we walk barefoot the big toe is spread out. This strengthens the arch. But when the big toe is crowded with the others, this can cause the arch to collapse.
Many shoes come with arch support. Anything that supports the arch should be good, right? Wrong. The arch of our feet were not designed to be supported. This feature actually weakens the arch in the long run.
High heels can cause more trouble than one can write about in one place. And yes, overpronation and flat feet too.
High heels keep the ankle in one single position, making them weaker. This can, over time cause the arch to be greatly damaged.
Throw away your shoes?
So is it time to do away with all your shoes? Well unfortunately you can’t, unless you wish to be thrown out of all the god restaurants.
The thing is – shoes are here to stay. And they perform some useful functions as well (try walking barefoot on ankle deep snow). But what we can do is reduce the harmful effect of footwear.
Here are a few simple steps that you can follow:
After you come home, take off your shoes. Spend an hour or two at home barefoot. It’s actually quite relaxing, and once you get used to it, extremely comfortable. You will never want to wear shoes at home ever again.
Feel the Ground
Take all the chances you get to take off your shoes. Feel the grass in the park on the soles of your feet. The sand in the beach, the tiny pebbles in your garden. Luxuriate in all the sensations that walking barefoot can produce.
If you have to wear footwear all the time, try to wear minimal footwear some of the time. Slippers and sandals, floaters and moccasins. Choose shoes that are as close to the barefoot experience as possible.
These are not only healthier for the arch of your foot but extremely comfortable as well.
Dailymail has reported that more and more flat footers are choosing to exercise bare feet to cure their condition. This works great for overpronation as well.
Shoe or Not To Shoe
It is true that shoes can cause and aggravate overpronation and flat feet. And sometimes going barefoot can go a long way in making things better. However this is not the cure-all for these foot maladies.
There are other things that cause flat feet – from genetics to general health of the other parts of your leg and feet. However going barefoot is a great way to healthier and more comfortable feet. So take off your shoes. Let your feet out to play.