SHOES FOR A HEALTHY YOU
You take care of your body in so many ways! You try to get consistent exercise, focus on getting quality sleep, try to eat healthy most of the time, and drink water daily. But, do you place the same amount of effort into selecting the shoes that your body depends on to anchor you to the ground every single day of your life? Think about the shoes you wear each day and the shoes you have in your closet. The likelihood is that most, if not all of your shoes have some type of heel-to-toe drop. Don't know exactly what that is or why it is important? Well, you've come to the right place.
YOUR BODY: FROM THE GROUND UP
How can our shoe choice impact our back and joint health? Most shoes have some type of heel lift--whether we are wearing boots with a heel, high heels, or even our favorite pair of running shoes. Running shoes measure their heel drop by millimeters. While such a minute measurement would seem like no big deal, the fact is heel drop creates slight shifts in our hips and pelvis which can lead to discomfort over time. As you see above, the image on the right side illustrates a slightly elevated heel. This slight elevation causes the body to tilt forward, impacting posture and placing unnecessary strain on the lower back, hips, knees, and ankles. Conversely, the image on the left does not have an elevated heel which allows the body to stand in a neutral position keeping the lower back, hips, knees, and ankles in alignment without any unnecessary stress. Since most shoes have an elevated heel, we have become accustomed to this type of shoe and over time our bodies adapted. But, could this be the culprit that is causing some of your lower back or joint pain? Perhaps!
What exactly is heel drop? According to this article from RunRepeat, "Heel to toe drop is the difference between heel and forefoot in an athletic shoe. It is measured in millimeters, going from 0-14mm in running shoes. It is also called heel drop, shoe drop, shoe offset, heel differential, tope drop, pitch, or gradient. The article goes on to say that based on a heel drop, shoes are split into 4 categories: 👟 Zero Drop: (0mm) 👟 Low Drop: (1-4mm) 👟 Mid Drop: (5-8mm) 👟 High Drop: (8+ mm) Do you know what the drop of your current running shoe is? If not, look it up and see how it "stacks up" :)
Is heel drop the same as stack height? You may wonder how a shoe that looks like is has such a thick underfoot could be a low or zero-drop shoe! Well, the stack height and the heel drop are two different things. Heel drop is the differentiation between the height of the heel and the height of the forefoot. While stack height is the amount of material between your foot and the ground. Here is an example of heel drop in a 4mm vs 0mm shoe:
Here is an example of stack height in a shoe: (In a 0mm drop, the stack height is the same from the heel to the forefoot. In a shoe with a heel drop of any kind the heel has greater cushioning than the forefoot)
Is a zero-drop shoe always the best choice? Every BODY is different! So, every shoe choice is dependent upon the unique needs of each individual. High drop shoes will place greater demand on your hips, lower back, and knees; whereas, lower drop shoes place greater demand on your calves and your achilles tendons. This demand differs because of the angle of the body relative to the heel drop. The bottom line is you want to select a shoe that will help you to reduce the strain on parts of your body that tend to be irritated and/or injured. While zero-drop shoes tend to help you move about in a more neutral position (similar to walking barefoot), if you have calf or achilles issues, you certainly don't want to exacerbate those. While we love a zero drop and barefoot shoe here at OMPT, we know it is not for everyone. The key is to educate yourself and start to have an awareness when shopping for your next pair of shoes. Ask the shoe specialist you are buying from what the heel drop is and perhaps try various drops to see which one suits your body the best. If you are buying online, look for the heel drop measurement in the details to be sure you are selecting a consistent drop in each of your shoes.
Can I just jump right into a zero-drop shoe? Please do not just buy a pair of zero drops and start to wear them full time! Making a change like this requires a transition period to allow your body to slowly (key word: SLOWLY) adapt to the new drop. Wear them around the house for a while in the beginning, then go for a short trip to the store in them, perhaps a short walk, etc (you get the idea)!
Some final thoughts... Whether you are super happy with your current shoes or you find yourself wondering if you should transition to a different type of shoe, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Too much cushion or too much heel drop can cause us to exaggerate our natural walking gait. This can cause several issues ranging from imbalances in our bodies to trouble with balancing. Transitioning to minimal footwear can help to support a more natural gait similar to the one we use when we walk barefoot and will facilitate muscle strength in our feet. This takes time and just like any other workout, your feet may be sore or fatigued as you transition to a different type of shoe.
2. The alignment of our body is obviously impacted by a higher heel drop simply because our feet are now on a slant. Switching to a minimalist shoe will not magically fix our biomechanical problems; however, over time our natural alignment will begin to resurface; thereby allowing us to improve our posture and mobility in some areas of our body.
3. Shoes are not the magic answer to injuries, but they can play a role in our overall physical health depending on your personal situation.
WORKOUT OF THE WEEK
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Looking for adventure and community?
Check out these trusted resources and friends!
Interested in trying out some shoes with varying heel to toe drops, check out our friends at FootZone here in Bend!
Video: Ultimate Guide to Heel Drop
Check out this IG post: gaithappens
WE LOVE HELPING CLIENTS GET BACK ON THEIR FEET!
There is a lot to consider when contemplating footwear. Luckily, we are here to make that process easier. Call, email, or message us to set up a consult today! Healthy feet are happy feet 👣,
Nicole and the OMPT team