Last Friday at my son’s end of the year picnic, I was chatting with a few of my mommy friends from his class. At some point, the attention was drawn to one of the woman’s shoes. She was laughing because they we so old that she’d worn through the toe and part of the side… but, on only one foot. We all laughed and agreed it was time for a new pair, and another friend suggested that she go to a local running store for recommendations on shoes for her foot type and to correct her supination or pronation. Of course the athletic trainer and biomechanics-geek in me couldn’t resist from speaking up.
I should mention that I usually don’t “flaunt” my rehab knowledge to random friends – I’m trying to remain somewhat normal and gain new friends instead of scaring them away. But, there are exceptions such as this one.
What Story Do Your Shoes Tell?
There are a few things that come to mind when I things to think about when it comes to our footwear. And while I do agree that having someone analyze your running gait and suggest appropriate footwear, this isn’t the solution to wear patterns in your shoe. It would be like someone watching you run and giving you a knee brace – it will help for awhile, but whatever is causing your knee to be braced will pop up again soon enough.
- How old are they? My friend’s shoes were 2 years old, so yeah, it’s definitely time for a new pair. Most athletic shoes should be changed every 3-12 months, depending on what you’re using them for. Which leads me to my next question.
- What are you using them for? Are these shoes you’re training for a specific event in? Such as a race? Or, are these your everyday, do everything sneakers?If it’s a training/running shoe, then you should be tracking the total miles that you’ve trained in them. Most running shoes have a life of 300-500 miles, but you can check with the manufacturer of your brand to get the specific details. Obviously this depends on how often and long you are training in them. My running shoes last longer than my husband’s because I only run about 15 miles a week, where put in about 35 miles per week. Also note if you’re rotating shoes depending on the terrain or your color preference of the day.If they are your every day sneakers, then you can get more time out of them since they are probably not subject to the impact of a training shoe. However, you should still treat yourself to a new pair about once a year.
- Where are they showing signs of wear and overuse? This is a biggie. Your shoes tell a story of how your foot moves while where them and how you walk. As an athletic trainer, I always look at the shoes of my athletes when they come in with pain – especially in the lower body. Most of us know about supination and pronation and they there are shoes that “fix” this, but there’s more to our footwear than that, and there are things about how we move that cannot be fixed by a shoe.For my friend, she had a hole in the toe of her left shoe and the outer edge near the ball of her foot. And it was only on one side. This tells me that it has more to do with her gait – something in the way that she is transferring weight when she walks or runs, and how probably weak foot muscles that aren’t supporting that movement.I asked to see the bottom of her shoe, and sure enough there was a major uneven wear pattern there. The heel and midsole of her shoe looked pretty good with not much wear, but the sole around the toe was almost gone. I didn’t analyze her gait, but I suspect that she’s either coming in on her toes or has an abnormal toeing off.
To fix this we need to work on strengthening our Vital Core (head, shoulder, abs, back, and down to the knees) through functional exercise and offsets. We also need to start being more mindful of how we’re moving and start correcting the flaws in our gait. It’s not quick or easy, but starting the practice can make a world of difference.
How can we start fixing our gait?
As I mentioned earlier, we need to incorporate more mindful movement practices as well as exercises to help re-train our bodies how to walk and run better.
- Mindful Movement. While you’re walking or running, take a few minutes during your workout to really focus on what your body is doing. How does your foot hit the surface? Is it hard in your toe or heel, or is it more mid-foot? Do you feel a rolling movement of the foot as you move through your gait, or are you landing and pushing off all in the same location? Is your gait propelling you forward, or are you bounding up and down as you move along? Finally, what’s making you move? The muscles in the front or in the back (hint: it should be the back). Once you start identifying what you need to change, then shift and spend a few minutes working on correcting one specific part of your gait. Just a few minutes throughout your run – the rest of the time just enjoy your exercise as you normally would. Over time, these small mindful moments will lead to big changes.
- Functional Exercises and Restoratives. I give my clients what I call “Vital Core 3x3s” to do at the end of every workout session – whether it’s rehab, strength, or cardio/endurance. The reason is that adding in 5-10 minutes of focused core training at the end of a workout is a lot easier than fitting in an additional 1-2, 30-minute training sessions each week.
Vital Core 3×3 Circuits
The Vital Core 3×3’s feature 3 exercises, 5-10 reps of each (or 30-60 seconds), for 3 sets. Circuit style and resting as needed. No rush – mindful, functional strength and release work.
Here’s an example of two great circuits to do after your workouts. Simply alternate them throughout the week:
Vital Core #1
Vital Core #2
Click the exercise names to see a demo of each
Adding in these two simple considerations to your training routine can help keep you pain free and maybe keep you in your shoes a bit longer. Although, you also need to start tracking the miles you’re putting on the shoes you’re training in. Even simply adding in a minute of Restoratives each day can help offset the damage that your biomechanical flaws are having on your body and get you back on the path to pain free play.
Get the Daily RE-Boot
If you’re looking for some easy Restorative exercises to add into your day, be sure to download my Daily RE-Boot Exercise for Pain Free Training and 30-Day Tracking Guide. It’s a simple way to add in effective exercises to offset our repetitive training methods, inefficient biomechanics, pregnancy, and our daily habits can lead to overuse injuries that keep us from enjoying the activities that we love. Get your FREE copy today!