Improving My Feet & Why We All Should Be Paying Attention To The Shoes We Wear
When someone says something mean to you, it’s very easy to get defensive and quickly jump to getting angry. But what if you listened to that comment for a second and sat with it, maybe even asked yourself WHY it made you defensive. Doing this has helped me many times over in my life, especially since I have a presence on social media where I have had many mean and angry comments sent my way over the years. But some have been quite helpful. Like when someone left a comment on my blog 10+ years ago that said, “Where did your eyebrows go?” Of course, my 24 year old self immediately jumped on the defense and couldn’t believe that a person would leave a comment like that. But then, I sat with it and I thought to myself…but where did my eyebrows go?! This led me to no longer plucking my eyebrows like it was 2001 and now on a road to eyebrow recovery. The mean spirited comment actually helped me find my brows again and I’m quite thankful for that.
Well fast forward to 9 months ago, when I was posting photos in Cabo during our babymoon and someone made a comment about my feet and how nasty they are. The only difference now that I’m almost 35 instead of 24 is I didn’t jump to the defense. I simply made the comment back that they were the only feet I have to work with. But it did get me thinking…I DO need to do something about my feet. I’ve struggled with my feet for as long as I can remember. My toes have never been straight, they’ve always hugged a little too tightly together, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that they are beginning to move slightly, like they are creating a bunion. But not only are they not great in the looks department, they don’t FEEL good. They constantly hurt when I wear shoes, three of my middle toes often go numb, and I don’t have great mobility. And the more I began to see different information online about how feet should look and move for optimal functionality, the more I became interested in making a change.
But like…where TF do you turn to for information about your feet? A podiatrist? That’s where I thought I would start, but I also didn’t want to be prescribed anything that may include foot inserts or even surgery. With my not-so-great past experiences with modern medicine, I didn’t feel like that was the right path for me. In my experience, the body can heal itself with the right tools in place and those tools can often be much simpler and less invasive than modern medicine. So I decided it was time to make a change. And something I love about the universe is that when we make a decision about a change in our lives, the universe often gives us exactly what we need to help put that plan into action. And since I was pregnant and going to a birth center group every 2 weeks, getting to know the women in the group, I met a chiropractor in my group that specializes in gait analysis and who even teaches courses about gait treatment strategies!! Boom. Plan in place.
I met with Jen from Kinetic Chiropractic a little over a month ago to start coming up with a plan to improving my feet. Jen is insanely intelligent and knowledgeable, and I felt at ease as soon as she began her assessment. She looked at my stride while I walked, tested my mobility in my hips, knees, and feet, and she also looked at how my bare feet were hitting the ground as I walked. Then she came up with a plan based on what she found. This was her initial findings from our first visit:
First, my midfoot is not moving like it should which is causing me to get all the motion from my forefoot and causing my toes to twist.
And since my midfoot can’t unlock, having the bones move as they should, this is causing my foot to swing outwards since my ankle doesn’t have full range of motion. This is also why I struggle with squatting.
Surprisingly enough, my hips had good range of motion, other than needing to increase some strength in the frontal plane.
From these findings, Jen came up with a plan to help improve mobility in the toes, midfoot, and ankle. She prescribed 5 mobility movements to do at home at least 5x/week. These mobility movements ranged from pushing my fingers between my toes to spread them out to working on spreading my toes out as far as I can to begin strengthening the muscles of my feet. I pretty much started a workout program for my feet.
But the biggest change I had to make was, alas, changing up my footwear. The shoes that I like to wear, like Nike or Adidas or Dolce Vita or Sam Edelman, are TERRIBLE for our feet. They have a narrow toe bed which pushes our toes together, decreasing mobility and functionality. Something Jen taught me was to take out the insert of the shoe you like to wear, put your foot on it on the ground, close your eyes and spread your toes – now look down. If your toes are wider than the insert, then that means your toes are being brought in and towards each other while you’re wearing those shoes, causing more and more issues with time. So I had to stop wearing the shoes I love the most, the shoes that had the most personality, and replace them with less cute looks. Major bummer.
Jen has a super helpful page here to check out all the best wide toe bed sneakers and shoes. I looked through all of them, hated 97% of them, but found this black pair of sneakers and this white pair of sneakers by Altra that I actually like and that look cute with leggings. I also found these black and white vegan leather sneakers for every day wear, but I didn’t get the right size since I found the sizing chart a little difficult, and I think they will rub on my heel a bit too much, causing a blister. I also found these and these, which are both pretty cute for every day sneakers, but I haven’t tried them out yet. Restocking your shoe closet is expeeeeensive…but ugly feet that don’t work properly is worse, right? Right. BeLenka has been my personal favorite site the “cutest” looking wide toe shoes, but I still need to try a few more before I can do a full review (which I will definitely share soon). I’ve also been recommended Flux by a few followers on IG, but I checked with Jen and she wasn’t a fan of their toe box size and said their sizing is terrible. All and all, it’s tough out there for cute shoes. Jen made a really helpful comment that normal shoes should be thought of as “junk food” and just like junk food, you’ll have it sometimes, but not on a regular basis. So now I only wear my junk food shoes out to dinner or to an event, but never as everyday wear.
The other major game changer is wearing toe spreaders/separators. Toe spreaders can help combat the effects of years of wearing narrow toe box shoes. And if you’re wearing a wide toe box shoe, you can even wear the toe spreaders with the shoes, which is what I have been doing every day since meeting with Jen for the first time. And after I take them off after wearing them all day, I can FEEL the difference and SEE the difference in movement and mobility! Toe spreaders are serious game changers. I also like to wear yoga toes at night. They spread your toes farther than toe separators and they are gel so they aren’t comfortable to wear in shoes or while walking around, but they are great for wearing on the couch and getting extra movement between the toes.
I’ve now seen Jen twice, with a follow-up assessment just last week, and she is excited about the progress I’ve made so far! Even though the progress is very minimal, small progress is huge when it comes to the feet. When I do my mobility exercises, which she changes up slightly every time I see her, I can FEEL the muscles and nerves waking up. And since changing up my footwear and wearing toe spreaders daily, my feet no longer hurt. Changing my shoes has been a COMPLETE game changer, as much as I hate it and miss my cute Adidas. Again, I’ll still wear those from time to time, but I’m making sure to wear them as little as possible.
Feet don’t get as much attention as they should. And I think here in the US, they are really ignored since we care more about vanity than functionality (hi, it me!). I remember going to Bali and seeing Balinese people who were often barefoot and I was in awe of how spread out their feet and toes looked. I would see people sitting in a squat position instead of a chair, barefoot, playing cards with a friend. They looked incredibly comfortable and their toes were spread like we spread our fingers. Unlike here in the US, their toes hadn’t been pushed together since early on in life. It was the first time I understood how much our footwear really screwed us over. But luckily now I have the tools to help me (literally) step in the right direction. AND I have the tools and understanding to help set Avery up for success with her own feet, and that’s really exciting to me! Anya from Anya’s Reviews has such great resources for adults, but she also has posts for children, including this one that’s all about barefoot minimalist shoes!
I hope this post helps YOU with figuring out your own footwear and how to care for your feet on a daily basis so you can run into issues or MORE issues in the future! Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll answer them the best I can!!
Oh, Hi! I’m Juli.
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