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Shoes were NOT part of the evolutionary process…

April 30, 2014

“The further humans stray from what they were naturally selected to do…the more their health suffers.” 

An entire industry has been built on trying to treat and/or “prevent” foot pain and dysfunction in humans. We are constantly being told that our feet need ‘support,’ and our arches need to be ‘maintained.’ Products abound with promises of decreased pain and increased comfort (soft shoes, athletic shoes, orthotics, etc.). The problem is however that the ‘cures’ that are offered are to a large extent contributing to the cause.

It is thought that the evolution of Homo Sapien bipedalism began approximately 4.2 million years ago. In contrast, the first shoes are believed to have been used only 10 thousand years ago (by the most generous estimation). What does this fact tell us? From an evolutionary perspective, footwear was invented only a moment ago!

Therefore:
“Shoes were NOT part of the evolutionary process” 
….TRAIN YOUR FEET!! 

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 12.19.33 PM

Tips, Facts, and Questions:
– Orthotics do not prevent your arch from ‘dropping’…no matter who made them, or what they are made out of

– If you have children, DO NOT allow them to wear shoes when it isn’t necessary (at home, playing in the yard, etc). The more the foot is challenged to function, the more it adapts to those challenges…and the better it functions.

– Encourage your kids to pick things up with their feet. This will build foot strength, dexterity, mobility, and function….all of which will contribute the longevity.

– Socks dampen the sensory feedback information that your foot is ‘collecting’ from the ground…this in turn will likely decrease the sensitivity of the feedback system over time.

– Did you ever wonder why if you have a knee, shoulder, or back problem, therapists manually treat the problem…and then assign exercises to improve the function of the body part….yet if you have a foot problem, many simply give you an orthotic (aka. a brace)? What would happen if we treated back pain this way?

– Having ‘dropped arches’ is not a diagnosis. Many of the worlds best functioning athletes have ‘dropped arches.’ Further, there are many, many examples of people with flat feet who never have foot pain or dysfunction. Static position of anatomy is much less important than how the anatomy moves.

– I have yet to see a plantar fasciitis patient in my clinic who had the ability to control toe/foot movement.

– There is a warranted fear in the manual medical community that wearing a back brace will lead to the muscles of the low back weakening over time due to disuse. Why do we think that the feet would not respond the same way to orthotics?

– Barefoot training is a PRIVILEGE …not a right. If you have been wearing supportive shoes all of your life, and then decide at 35 to just start wearing ‘barefoot’ shoes…you will get injured.

– If you are prescribed orthotics for a foot condition…your first goal should be to train your foot in order to get out of them asap.

Your feet are the first, and best functioning ‘shoes’ you will ever own….and if you care for them, they will last your entire life.

For those who haven’t seen it, here is the link to a youtube video that I posted a while ago that discusses this further and demonstrates some BASIC intrinsic foot activation strategies (this is by no means an extensive list of drills…it is just a starting point):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OOJ9AQ1AEg

Here is a video of my good friend Dewey Nielsen demonstrating a slightly more advanced foot training drill:

http://instagram.com/p/k5Pqe9i5L-/

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. ben permalink
    April 30, 2014 1:54 pm

    Dr Dre, you have some good insights there. However, I feel that a blanket dismissal of orthotics is rather lopsided. For example, during weightbearing, the support structures would primarily be bones (feet etc), ligaments, soft tissue, etc rather than muscles per se right? Hence, I am not sure that feet strengthening muscles have much carryover in being able to undrop one’s medial longitudinal arch, etc during walking/ running. And we haven’t even talked about dropped metatarsals etc…I am not sure that feet strengthening would help prevent dropped metatarsals, etc. This is where I feel that orthotics have a role to play (“supportive, not corrective” as Dr Mark Charette says in one of his seminars).

    Secondly, if during passive physical examination you can open and close a person’s rays (splay foot), then it follows that the moment this person bears weight, the foot would still splay. This is where rigid orthotics may have a supportive role to play as a podiatrist demonstrated this to me.

    Thank you.
    Ben

  2. April 30, 2014 3:06 pm

    Hi Ben

    I wasn’t trying to make a blanket negative statement about orthotics. If it came off that way it wasn’t the intention. I do feel that when the foot becomes dysfunctional enough, an orthotic is often the only thing that can help. The statement that it doesn’t change the fact that the foot arch will drop was not my opinion, there are studies that demonstrate this. That alone is not a knock at orthotics…it is simply stating that that is not their function. As per the work of Nigg, the orthotics purpose is not to change foot position, but to guide the speed/rate of movement of the foot getting into the position.

    “For example, during weightbearing, the support structures would primarily be bones (feet etc), ligaments, soft tissue, etc rather than muscles per se right? Hence, I am not sure that feet strengthening muscles” – this statement is true. The foot is maintained mostly by ligamentous structure. But to say that doing exercises to strengthen the feet only alters the “muscles” is incorrect. When we train, we don’t only train muscles….ligaments, fascia, tendons, bones, blood tissue, and even nerve structure adapts to the applied loads. We know this through years of histological studies. So by training the foot, we are indeed building the load bearing capacity of the ‘soft tissue’ structures.

    Dr Mark Charette’s quote is true in every way…as per what i noted above. I don’t disagree with this statement. Of course orthotics ‘play a role.’ As do braces for the knee, shoulder, etc. The problem lies in relying on that role.

    “if during passive physical examination you can open and close a person’s rays (splay foot), then it follows that the moment this person bears weight, the foot would still splay.” It will indeed…and it will splay no matter what material the orthotic is made from. I can’t recall the article by name, but it has been shown that the foot will take the position it takes no matter the external support structure.

    Thanks for the comment

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