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Monthly Archives: June 2018

A (sort of) quick note about arch support and then I promise I’ll shut up about feet and shoes for a minute.  I know, I know, we were all told we needed to have good arch support.  We were also told that marijuana was a gateway drug that would lead to a terrible death by heroin overdose and it turns out that’s just not true for most people.  I’m here to be your counterpoint to the D.A.R.E. officer’s version of the arch support story.

Our feet were designed to support the weight of our bodies.  Our feet are incredibly good at this job.  Our feet actually have three arches to help not only with this job, but to help us run, jump, walk, dance, and play “This Little Piggy Went to Market.”  Actually, I don’t think the arches help much with that, but it’s an important game.  Today, we’re going to focus on the medial and lateral arches, but don’t worry, transverse arch, I still love you.

So, the medial and lateral arches of our feet run the length of our feet.  The medial arch is the one on the inside, and it’s the one we all tend to think of as THE ARCH of our foot, that runs from big toe to heel.   It is the most pronounced and obvious arch.  The lateral arch runs along the outside of our foot, parallel to the medial arch, from pinky toe to heel.  These arches are formed partly by the shape of the bones in them (somewhat wedge shaped), but are largely formed by the muscles of the lower leg which hold them in place and let them relax and contract, using power much like Cupid’s famed bow.  As we put weight on our foot (like when we’re walking), both the medial and the lateral arches should be able to lengthen, then spring back into a contraction as we push off of our toes.  This action is particularly helpful when we run or jump.

Now that we’ve got a basic understanding of how these two arches work, let’s talk about arch support by way of talking about canes. You know how if you had a problem with one leg; say you sprained an ankle or had knee surgery or got a giant, gaping flesh wound on your thigh, you might use a cane for a little while to take some of the pressure off that leg.  The cane, essentially, is a stand-in for some of your leg.  It doesn’t do all the work of your leg, but it lightens the load.  And while that might be really helpful for a period of time, it will also allow the muscles of that leg to atrophy to some degree.  So, if you use a cane for a few days, you might not notice much of a difference from one leg to the other.  However, if you use a cane for a few years, one leg will become significantly stronger than the other and if you then tried to hike a few miles without your cane, you might end up hiking in circles.  Probably not, but there would be a big difference between your legs.  And the leg the cane had been helping out would be noticeably weaker than the other leg.

Arch support in your shoes is like a cane, but for your medial arch.  And specifically, it’s like a cane for the muscles of the lower leg that maintain your medial arch and allow it to function as well as it does.  So, maybe you had a foot, or lower leg, or ankle injury and you needed a little arch support while things were healing.  That’s one thing and I don’t have any problem with that.  However, most people I know, myself included, started wearing shoes with arch support of some sort before they were in high school, with no injuries or weakness to speak of.  Can you imagine if we went around telling 10-year-olds to use canes all day, every day just because one day they might need them?  Arch support in your shoes allows your medial arch (and the muscles of the lower leg that support it) to atrophy, while at the same time, it offloads the work of lengthening and contracting to the lateral arch and the muscles that support it.  So while the medial arch gets weaker and weaker, the lateral arch just gets stronger.  These muscles supporting each of the arches run the entire length of the lower leg.  If the muscles corresponding to the lateral arches are all beefed up like the Hulk, while the muscles corresponding to the medial arches are withering away to nothing, do you think the ankle can perform at its highest potential?  What about the knee?  Do you think those joints are very balanced?  No, me either.  So what happens when you go to walk around without arch support (like when you try to switch to barefoot sandals or just being plain barefoot) is that your medial arch tends to collapse a little, sometimes causing pain and discomfort or at the bare minimum, fatigue.  And that’s not just in the foot, but in the ankle, the knee, the hip, and so on.

So, what’s a whole population of life-long arch supporters to do?  Well, we can stop forcing arch support on our kids, for one.  But we can also work to slowly reduce, then eliminate the arch support in our own lives.  May I please stress the importance of slowly.  If you’d been using a cane for the last 30 years, you wouldn’t go run a marathon without it tomorrow, would you?  Starting with a few minutes to a few hours of barefoot time here and there and working towards as much time as possible over months or years is not only a more pleasant way to rebuild your medial arch strength, but a safer one.  Depending on how long you’ve been wearing shoes with arch support, your bones, and ligaments, and tendons (not only in your feet, but in your whole body, especially your legs) have grown to accommodate that situation.  It will take a long time for them to grow into new shapes and strengths to suit your new, stronger arches.  And (obviously, because I’m the one writing this) Rolfing can help with this transition as well.  Including a session here and there to encourage balance, strength, and flexibility in your feet and legs (sessions 2, 4, and 6 of the 10-series anyone?) can really go a long way in increasing the speed with which you go from support-dependance to freedom.

(I’m going to go ahead and assume you can deduce my opinion on orthotics and shoes with ‘good’ ankle support instead of writing whole separate posts about those things.)

Happy walking!

Alright, alright.  I’ve told you not to wear flip-flops, I’ve told you not to wear shoes with a heel…what can you wear on your feet, for those times when going barefoot just won’t work?  Let’s talk about how to find good shoes instead of just complaining about the bad ones, shall we?

Ultimately, when you’re shopping for shoes, the target you’re aiming for is that your foot can move as naturally as possible.  Meaning, if you took a stroll around the block barefoot, then put your shoes on and did another lap, not much would change.  Your stride and foot-strike and roll-through and push-off would all feel the same.  But to really make this easy, there are 4 main things to look for in a shoe: toe-box, heel, sole, and upper.  Or, front, back, top, and bottom.

 

Toe-Box: So this is the part of the shoe that is around your toes.  Ideally, your toes would have room to spread as wide as possible, as you roll from your heel to your toes with each step.  This not only provides you with a wider and more stable platform, but allows for the best push-off so you get the most bang for your buck with each stride.  If you were going to do a handstand, would you keep all your fingers smushed together, possibly overlapping?  If you were trying to walk on your hands, do you think you should keep your fingers together?  Then why would we think shoes like this would be in our feet’s best interest?  (Answer: They’re not.)  Look for a wide toe-box when shoe shopping.

Which pair do you think gets my vote?
 

Heel:  We’ve already been over this, but just in case.  Any rise in your shoe from where the toes are to where the heel rests is not great.  Look for zero-rise shoes.  As heel height becomes a popular thing for people to care about, more and more shoe companies are listing the ‘rise’ on their shoe descriptions.  If you can’t find zero rise, try to minimize it.  A 4-inch rise is obviously worse than a 1-2 millimeter rise.  Less is more, people.

Instead of this…

Try this.

 

Sole:  What we’re after here is a flexible sole.  Again, we want the foot to move as naturally as possible; the key word in this context is ‘move.’  Many shoes have such a rigid sole that your foot can’t really move, and the ankle joint has to do all the work.  There are 33 joints in the foot.  That’s a lot of potential movement, and if you’re asking your ankle to do all of it for you, you’re also asking for ankle injuries.   Your body’s ability to respond to different types of terrain (slippery, slanted, uneven, soft, etc.) depends on your foot’s ability to know what type of terrain it needs to respond to.  If your foot can’t tell because it’s got an inch of rigid rubber between it and the terrain, how can your body respond appropriately? (Answer: It can’t.)  Look for a flexible sole, the thinner the better.

Your choice.
 

Upper:  This is the part of the shoe that attaches it to your foot and the number one problem I have with flip-flops.  The upper of a shoe should securely attach the sole of the shoe to your foot, so that you don’t have to grip with your toes or adjust your stride in order to keep your shoe on.  Also, the upper of a shoe should not bite into or pinch your skin, since this will affect the way you walk, as you try to avoid that pain.  Any shoes that you can slip on probably don’t have a sufficient upper.  And any shoes that are too big or too small probably aren’t great either.

Instead of this…

Try this.

So that’s it.  The 4-point quick guide to buying shoes.  If you can hit all 4 in a single pair of shoes, you’re winning.  But if not, try to get at least 3 and work towards 4 with your next pair.

So, a minute ago, I told you not to wear flip-flops, right?  And I talked about the importance of not wearing shoes that you had to grip with your toes in order to keep attached to your feet.  Now, we’re going to talk about the one aspect of footwear that everyone already knows about, but completely ignores.  Heel height.

Yeah, yeah, we all know that high heels are like cigarettes.  Sexy and terrible for you.  We get it.  But what so many people don’t realize is that any heel on a shoe is detrimental to your health.  This does not just apply to women’s shoes.  This does not just apply to fancy dress shoes.  Almost all shoes these days have an elevated heel compared to the toe.  That includes almost all running shoes, almost all slippers, almost all sandals…you get the picture, right?

The very best metaphor I have to demonstrate why wearing any heel at all is detrimental to your health is one I am shamelessly stealing from Katy Bowman.  I believe she uses this example in both Move Your DNA and Whole Body Barefoot, which are books you should probably read at some point.  But until then, let’s just talk about a bookcase, for a minute.

Imagine a bookcase, filled with books (and maybe a plant or a few rocks or shells or glass jars, or whatever else you like to keep on your bookcases besides books).  Now, imagine a wooden block, 1 inch high and 1 inch wide.  Go ahead a slip that block under one edge of your bookcase.  Is that bookcase functioning to the best of its ability?  Now, imagine that your bookcase is as tall as you are, probably somewhere in the 5 to 6 1/2 feet range.  Now, imagine your bookcase is as wide as your foot is long (maybe 9 to 14 inches).  How does that 5 1/2 foot tall, 1 foot wide bookcase look, leaned up against your wall with a one inch block under one side?  Super good?  Want to see what it looks like in a 4-inch stiletto?  I didn’t think so.

Now imagine your bookcase has to do more than just stand there, holding books.  Imagine your bookcase needs to walk the dog uphill in the snow, carry a giant pan of lasagna from the oven to the table, run after the ice cream truck, jump on the bed, bend down to pull a golden ticket from the gutter, hang from trees, do the twist and the hokey-pokey.  Do you think your bookcase is very well set up to do all these amazing things with that block under one side of it?

No; me either.  And yet, we ask our amazing bodies to do all these things and more with giant (proportionally) wedges under them, throwing them off-balance with every step.  So yeah, stop it with the heels.  Please.  Or do less with the heels.  Try slowly transitioning to shoes with less rise from toe to heel.  How about that?  Is that fair?

Client Spotlight

Today I’m going to introduce you to Liz, who finished the 10-series a few months ago.
Hopefully you’ll find her story as interesting as I do!  And if you’d like to tell your story, I’d love to hear it and share it if you’re willing!

Liz Edelman

I began receiving the Rolfing 10 Series with Theresa last fall. I had been hearing about Rolfing for the last 20 years and was curious about pursuing Rolfing as a career. Although I had a little informal experience with a sport coach who was a Rolfer, I really wanted a more complete experience with the 10 series.

Right away, at my first session, I felt comfortable and at ease with Theresa and her approach. I spaced my sessions about every two weeks and found that I very quickly began to eagerly await the next session. Theresa always seemed to find those special spots that needed a bit of extra attention despite the fact that I either didn’t know they did or didn’t mention them to her!

I’m sure other Rolfers are good, but the true value in seeing Theresa is Theresa herself. Her spirit, energy, caring, and experience create an incredibly healing atmosphere. While the Rolfing is exceptional, it’s what Theresa brings to the table that makes it transformative. You wouldn’t just go to any mechanic or pick any vet out of the directory; the same goes for bodywork. You want someone who brings a little something extra and that is definitely what Theresa does!

It’s like what Theresa says on her website. “Rolfing lets you be more yourself.” When I first read that I thought “what the heck does that mean???” But then around session 7, I got it. I felt it. I knew what that meant, but not in a verbal way. All I know is that I feel better after sessions with Theresa, and not just in my body, but also in my heart and soul.

Favorite area to be Rolfed: SI Joint & Sacrum

From Theresa:I’d really love to hear your story about why you decided to try Rolfing!  If you’d like to be featured in my newsletter and on my blog, please reach out!

Practitioner Spotlight

There are a few questions that come up OVER and OVER in my practice.  And I should probably include those in the FAQ’s on my website, since that is exactly what an FAQ is.  However, just in case you’re not reading my website on a daily basis, I’m going to start answering common questions here in my newsletter.  And lately, the popular question is: “What do you think of acupuncture?”

What I think of acupuncture:

To this, I always reply that I LOVE acupuncture.  Because I do, and I’m not in the habit of lying to my clients.

The next question, is about whether or not I have an acupuncturist I recommend.  And to that, I say, go see Lee.

Lee Hurter and I have been working together for about a year and a half and I cannot tell you how grateful I am for him in my life.  While I originally sought treatment with Lee to see if there was anything he could do to help the swelling in my feet (yes, is the answer), he has helped with so much more than that.  When I crashed my body into a rock while running as fast as I could down a mountain, Lee is the one who put me back together.  When I had a cold that laid me out for a week, Lee is the one who helped clear the mucus out of my lungs so I could go more than 10 minutes between blowing my nose.  But the number one thing that Lee has helped me with (and the most unexpected from my inexperienced viewpoint) is the emotional aspect.  Lee has helped me get to the root of, and move through anger and frustration and grief and sadness and hopelessness and annoyance….and on and on.  It’s been so, so helpful.

  .     

Moving Points Acupuncture

Lee Hurter is the owner and licensed acupuncturist of Moving Points Acupuncture (movingpointsacupuncture.com).

He was drawn to acupuncture 12 years ago after learning the NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) protocol. This protocol works with withdrawal symptoms, anxiety, trauma, cravings, stress, and insomnia.  Lee then went to school to learn Classical 5-Element Acupuncture which is an ancient form of acupuncture that focuses on the emotional and constitutional roots of imbalances, illness, and pain.

Moving Points Acupuncture is an office AND mobile based practice dedicated to providing client-centeredtrauma-informedbody-positive, and harm-reduction based treatments. Treatments may include different styles of acupuncturemoxibustion, and cupping. Moving Points is committed to offering treatments to people who have never received acupuncture before, as well as to seasoned clients. Treatments cater to the individual client’s needs and desires.

If you’re at all interested, give acupuncture a try!

It’s a great compliment to your Rolfing sessions and a different perspective on healing.

Flip flop season is just getting started and I’m writing to ruin your fun.  I would say that I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if I’m honest, I kinda love it.  So let’s just get right to it, shall we?

I could talk for days about foot health and how important it is (as the foundation for the rest of your body all day, every day), but suffice it to say that it’s really, really important and whatever you do to your feet, the rest of your body has to deal with as well.  And so, when choosing your footwear this summer, can I please, please, please entice you away from the flip flops?

I know nobody will be surprised to hear me say that high heels aren’t good for you.  But so often I see people trade their heels (and yes, that includes the gentlemen; anything where your heel is higher than your toes is considered a high heel in my book) for flip flops and consider the problem solved.  Not so, my friend, not so.

Ideally, as you walk, your foot should go through a full, smooth roll, from the outside edge of your heel to the very tip of your big toe before leaving the ground to stride forward to the next step.  I tried to find a video of this, but this animation (which is a terrible example of how to walk, but is great if you just watch the feet) is the best I could find:

However, when you wear flip flops, you need to hang on to them with your toes or they’ll go flying.  Which means your toes are contracted when they should be at their longest, most extended.  And you do this with Every.  Single.  Step.  No bueno, team.  It shortens the fibers in the plantar surface of the foot…which can lead to plantar fasciitis.  It prevents you from having a full, long stride, so you end up taking more steps per mile, compounding the problem with each step.  It causes a mirrored shortness in the pelvic floor, straining the super fun zone that’s located there, as well as the bladder and the urethra (but those aren’t that important, right?).  With a shortened anterior pelvis, a hyper-lordotic lumbar curve is encouraged, which is just a fancy way of saying low back pain is probably on its way.  Oh, and knee problems!  I almost forgot about knee problems!  They come with flip flop use as well because all that tightening and shortening in the toes happens mostly through muscles in the lower leg, which creates imbalance in the knee joint, and let me tell you, the knee is a tricky joint to rebalance once it’s out of whack.

So.  Flip flops are bad.  Sorry, not sorry.

But, I really am trying to help you live your best life.  Not just now, but 10 years from now.  And 10 years after that.  And if you spend half the year wearing flip flops, every year, for 60 years, then come to me with plantar fasciitis, knee pain, back pain, and pelvic organ prolapse…well, don’t say I didn’t warn you, but I’ll happily take your money and we can do weekly Rolfing sessions for the next 5 years to get you back on track.

OR, try going barefoot!  Or, try one of the (what seems like hundreds of) ‘barefoot’ sandal options.  Or, just find a shoe that securely attaches to your foot so your toes don’t have to grip with every step.  Remember, your foot should be able to move like this:

And if it can’t while wearing and walking in your shoes, you’re basically putting your foot in a cast, then expecting it to do its job, which isn’t exactly fair.  I don’t put your hands in mittens then ask you to play the piano.  Set your feet up for success and ditch the flip flops.

Until next time, happy moving!
Theresa