Don't Let Your Summer Sandals Cause You An Injury!
It’s hard to imagine that wearing sandals, light slip-on shoes or flip-flops over the summer might cause you an injury but this is a pattern that we see repeated year in year out.
What’s the problem?
The majority of summer shoes have very poor foot support and shock absorbency. Many of us have dropped foot arches to start with, and add to that the distances the average Londoner walks on a normal working day. This can lead to repetitive stresses on muscles and joints predisposing to injuries that can last way beyond the summer months.
Does it affect everyone?
If you have perfect biomechanics with a normal foot arch – you very well might be able to wear flat summer shoes with no problem. Many of the people that we see with problems however have what is generally termed ‘flat feet’ – a lessening to some degree of the natural foot arch. The foot mobility and arch is important for efficient weight transfer during walking and running – transmitting forces from the ground up through the lower limb. To do this properly, the foot must be able to ‘supinate’ i.e. raise the foot arch during the appropriate part of the gait cycle. This ‘locks’ the foot and allows forces to be transmitted optimally further up the leg. If the foot arch is flat ‘pronated’ to start with, in some cases, it does not arch sufficiently in time and the foot then pushes off in a flat position allowing excessive or abnormal pressures to be taken on the foot, the lower limb, the knee and even the hip. Repeated, step by step over time, this can build to lower limb muscle imbalances, foot and ankle sprains, knee pain, and other soft tissue injuries.
What can you do?
It’s useful to know whether you have flat feet or not as this may alert you to pay more attention to your summer footwear choice. Some people that we see have been told by a health professional in the past and are aware, but for many people, it comes as a surprise.
Flat feet can be genetic, can develop with age and are also seen in people who have generalised increased flexibility- joint hypermobility. The classic test is walking in the sand or leaving a foot pattern with wet feet – how much of an imprint you leave can give you an indication of how much of your arch is on the ground when you transmit weight.
If you do have flat feet there are some things that you can do to minimise your risk of getting an injury.
- -Try and choose sandals that have some pre-existing inside arch support – brands such as fit-flop, ecco and geox are generally quite good.
- -Try and avoid very flat sandals or trainers with quite flat soles. If you really want to wear them, try and avoid wearing them for long-distance walking or when you are on your feet a lot. Swap between shoes if you need to.
- -In some cases, you can do exercises to improve the foot muscle function and also correct any muscle imbalances further up the chain. A biomechanical assessment with your physiotherapist will advise you on any imbalances and potential problems and what you can do.
- -Look at getting arch supports – orthotics, to improve your foot positioning to start with and to put in flatter shoes and trainers to improve their support. Again your physio will be able to advise you. In the clinic we sell over the counter Vasyli orthotics that can be moved between shoes and can be helpful in some instances. We also keep details of recommended podiatrists that can provide customised orthotics if necessary.
If you have any queries on this article or anything injury-related please feel free to get in touch with us at the clinic - Helen Skehan