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Ask the Doctor: Is There a Perfect Shoe?

Dr. Qureshi discusses the best types of shoes for exercise and everyday wear.

For this week, the question deals with something I get asked a lot:

There are so many shoes out there! Do you recommend any specific type of shoe for normal use and working out?

After having read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, I was pretty convinced on this idea of barefoot running. So maybe we can't run barefoot outside on the sidewalks, but I do believe we should get as close as we can. With that said, there is this new wave of minimalist footwear that you'll see in just about every sports or footwear store. 

Around my office in the summer time, I mostly wear my New Balance Minimus.  It's the best minimalist shoe I've found for my feet. It has a 4mm drop from heel to toe, meaning it doesn't have a nice big cushy heel most shoes have.  Other Minimus shoes have a 10mm and even a 0mm drop.  I do believe this is beneficial especially for runners because it helps us get into that midfoot strike, as opposed to heel striking.  Heel striking while running increases the impact into our joints and can lead to 'shin splints,' which is actually an overuse injury in the tibialis anterior muscle. 

In minimalist footwear, it forces the small muscles of our feet and ankle to actually contract. Whereas if we're in shoes that have a ton of arch support, those muscles can sometimes become weak and contracted.  That's part of the cause of plantar fasciitis - a chronically shortened plantar fascia that doesn't like it when it's stretched.

There's also some research out there to support the idea that if we put our children in shoes too early, it can lead to foot, ankle, and knee problems early on.  When children are learning to walk, it's best to be barefoot.  This way the body learns to respond to different terrains and the smaller supportive muscles get stronger.

While I am a proponent of minimalist footwear, I do realize that it's not appropriate for everybody.  Some people with heel spurs and history of multiple ankle sprains can have a problem with minimalist shoes. So, it may be worth a shot, but if it doesn't work for you, then it doesn't work. Like with any new type of shoe, it's best to give it a good break-in period of a few weeks, and if you're a runner, start out low on your mileage (even down to one mile or so, then switch back to your old shoes). 

Thanks for reading and if you'd like a chiropractic or health related question featured here next week, please email me directly at QureshiDC@gmail.com!

John P. Morse August 16, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Cinderella found the "perfect" shoe after she lost it.

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