Do you wear sensible running shoes when exercising but make bad decisions on your day-to-day shoes?

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Today I will be explaining about why our work shoes matter.

All manner of people proudly show me expensive high tech running shoes with the latest and greatest foam and lace technology and it does everything but change the oil in the car and reply to text messages. It also has a price tag to match. The importance of a good running or exercise shoe is generally well understood and has been repeated for many years, particularly as the technology and our understanding of biomechanics has improved and increased. A good running shoe will help to provide shock absorption, control excessive foot motions, and keep our feet moving efficiently when we are pounding the pavement or the treadmill. They will also help by stabilising the foot and thus are a key in helping to prevent common or painfully debilitating injuries.

When I ask to see work shoes, I get hard soled, badly worn, pointed toe, stiletto heeled, poorly fastening fashion shoes which look great but serve very little other function. Also with the price tag to match. That’s about all the work and running shoes have in common – cost. Your work shoes really do matter!

A common misconception is that if we only get foot or ankle pain when we run and exercise, but don’t get any pain when at work, then surely our work shoes don’t matter? So how do our work shoes impact the pain that we get when we are running?

Often when we are work, we will usually try to balance style and comfort. Of course for a variety of reasons, this is not always balanced evenly and occasionally the style scale will be in full tilt and the comfort scale is empty. We squeeze our feet into uncomfortable, tight, pointed, heeled or excessively flat soled shoes. And then we sit down. I only walk to the printer or the elevator, I usually kick my shoes off if I’m sitting down. Where is the problem in that I hear you say? Well what about when you’re walking from the car to the train and the train is full, so you stand for 45 minutes in those heels? Or you like the coffee more from the place that is an extra 300m up the road, and you want to improve your step count? It’s this kind of activity that can lead to problems without even realising it.

If we are squeezing our feet into a shoe that offers little support, here’s what can happen:

  • The structures in our feet are forced to work harder to control the movements in our feet in a shoe not designed for controlled movements
  • This in turn leads to fatigue of the muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments which your body can usually handle quite easily – in the short term.
  • Sure, it doesn’t lead to immediate pain or dysfunction but when you get home and want to go for a run, the structures and soft tissues in our feet and ankles are fatigued, and their function will be compromised and inefficient
  • Over time, this can lead to an altered gait pattern to help improve efficiency and the end result is almost always pain or dysfunction from an injury.

How can this scenario (which plays out thousands of times daily) be avoided or controlled? Don’t go throwing your work shoes out just yet, a few tips and slight adjustments might be all you need.

Typically I recommend the following:

  • Wear some comfortable runners to and from work. They should be stable and supportive if possible. Preferably not more than 2-3 years old and badly worn.
  • If you must wear business attire, leave a pair of shoes at work you can easily change into.
  • Look around you on the train – you won’t be alone
  • Flatter is not necessarily better!
  • If you have a client face to face meeting or an important briefing, wear the heels. No problem. A few times a week instead of every day is a big improvement
  • The goal is not to make you feel self-conscious or unprofessional – the goal is to increase your mobility and reduce the chances of harming yourself unnecessarily

If you’re in the market for new work shoes, or you absolutely hate the idea of wearing runners into the office (or both) here are some features you should be on the lookout for when you’re choosing your next work shoe

  • Firm heel counter
  • You can’t easily bend in half
  • Some flexion in the toe/forefoot region but not excessive
  • You can’t twist the show easily, like a wet sponge
  • Has something to fasten the shoe to your foot (zipper, laces, buckles, straps)

Good work shoes can be really tough to find. As a general rule, there is no one specific brand that is superior to others. Every foot is different, every job role is different and not everyone has the same sense of style or fashion. What may suit others, may not be appropriate for you so it’s good to do a little bit of research. Try a few different styles and ask the shop attendant.

If you’re really unsure or you want something very specific, come in and see us at Sutherland Podiatry so we can go through and see what would be the most beneficial for you.

Alternatively if you’re interested in knowing if your current shoes are a good option, what to buy next or if you are experiencing any foot or ankle pain, I’m here to help! Call us on 9542 3491.

Speak to you soon,

Scott

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