Do you slow down when you are passing by a shoe store window? Do you have to cruise through the shoe department in the department store, even if you are not shopping for shoes? So many of us love our shoes. They allow us to create a look as individual as we are. So what’s the problem? At Hands On and Verde Valley Myofascial Release, we treat muscular pain patterns. In order to have good long term success with pain remediation, it’s important to find all the underlying causes of pain. Poor posture and body mechanics are always considered when looking for underlying causes of pain. It’s not uncommon for us to have to educate our clients about their shoe choice when they are dealing with muscular pain- anywhere in the body. Yes, your shoes can cause and/or contribute to your pain. We are experts at understanding and treating myofascial pain. Myofascial pain is a tightening of the connective tissue which occurs with any unresolved muscular imbalance. Myofascial pain is very common and very treatable. The trick is resolving and finding the underlying issue as well as restoring the proper alignment with myofascial release. So, let’s look at how your shoe choice can contribute to myofascial pain.
High heels are very popular with many women. One in ten women wear high heels at least three days a week. The higher the heel, the more potential damage you can cause to the ankle and foot, by shortening the achilles tendon that runs behind the heel to the bottom of the foot. Listed below are some of the common problems with improper fitting shoes.
High heeled shoes change the angle of the heel to the toes thereby changing our center of gravity. This changes the alignment of the hips and spine, (which include our head and neck), predisposing us to back and leg pain or pain anywhere up the chain. The higher the heel, the more susceptible you are to shortening your achilles tendon which allows you to flex and bend your foot forward and back. As it shortens, this decreases the surface area of the bottom of your foot and does not allow for proper foot placement during walking. This is a primary cause of plantar fascists as well as a myriad of other dysfunctions, such as pelvic floor and back pain, which may seem unrelated to the symptoms presented.
Wearing shoes that are too narrow can cause you to curl your toes up to fit in the shoe. This will shorten the tendons that flex the toes causing hammertoes. Morton’s Neuroma can also develop from wearing shoes that are too narrow by causing a thickening of the nerves- usually between the third and fourth toes, leading to foot and toe pain and numbness.
The issue with myofascial pain is that things that are already present in the body can contribute to a newer problem. For example, let’s say you are in a minor car accident which causes some neck pain. Your neck muscles are in spasm and your range of motion is limited. Under normal circumstances, your body will accommodate the trauma and the pain is self limiting with some gentle stretching and/or a mild anti-inflammatory and some rest. As you are getting better and the pain is resolving , you start back to your normal level of activity. You put on the shoes you typically wear, which happen to have a heel, and go to work. When you put your heels on, your pelvis moves forward changing your center of gravity requiring your head and neck muscles to pull back to maintain a mid line posture. Those neck muscles, which are not fully healed are now put in a stressful position causing inflammation where they typically would not have before.
Another example involves the predominance of a sedentary work force due to our increased use of technology. Because many folks sit long hours of the day at computers, their neck range of motion is already limited. Wearing shoes that either do not provide adequate support, such as flip flops, or high heels that change our center of gravity, will take an already tightened and shortened muscular system and limit the range of motion further.
As a side note, I do want to mention that many people are guided directly to exercise when there is pain anywhere in the body. While I am a big believer in exercise, this is often a mistake when there is an alignment issue. When we add strengthening exercises without correcting a muscular imbalance, we can often strengthen that muscular imbalance which creates more pain. Many failed Physical Therapy treatments come from utilizing exercise without correcting the muscular imbalance.
In conclusion, at Hands On, we can help reset your neuormuscular system to take you out of pain using Myofascial release. Equally important is the reinforcement that you do at home and in your day to day life. Understanding and utilizing proper posture and body mechanics and considering how your clothing, including your shoe choice, is affecting your posture can be a turning point to a full resolution of a chronic pain pattern.
Jody Hendryx, PT, LMT