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Lifestyle Tips for Lower Leg Health

Sticking with the Lower Leg theme – the calf and soleus – what are some other ways you can add support to a part of your body that is now moving more and moving better?

If you’ve been doing the Calf Stretch and Soleus Stretch for a month, you might find that you are experiencing one or all of the following:

  • ease of discomfort in the knees and feet
  • less cramping in the calves and feet
  • more energy for walking and climbing stairs
  • less discomfort in the a.m. in the plantar fascia

And that will lead to you want to optimize those benefits! So here’s one very easy and simple way you can start bringing even more length and health into those tissues and it starts with the shoes you wear.

 

One inch of positive heel you pitches you forward 20 degrees. This isn’t how you would stand of course (although if you sit and watch enough women in heels walk by you will see the pitch in some) – most people bend at their various joints to get themselves upright again. However, this changes the geometry of those joints, both in that moment, and over time, somewhat permanently (the damage can be undone to an extent).

The resulting forced position in the ankle points the foot like a ballet dancer (called plantar flexion) which leads to changes to the muscle length. So the higher the heel, the more plantar flexed the ankle!

EVEN MORE IMPORTANT – if you have children, please get shoes for your kids with no heels on them (even runners have a heel quite often!), as the muscle-tendon ratio can change as the bones and muscles grow, and there’s not much you can do about tendon length once it’s set. Even a tiny 1/4″ heel on a child’s shoe can create physiological changes.

SO if you want to support your newly lengthening calves, try to find shoes that are slightly lower than the ones you currently wear. DO NOT GO ALL THE WAY TO NO HEELS if you currently wear Carrie Bradshaw type shoes okay? Transition appropriately, and slowly, so the muscles and tendons don’t get torn or damaged. Continue to Calf Stretch. You can wear those heels when you need to (parties, dates) but for every day wear, try to find a transition shoe.

Eventually, it’s my opinion that you’d do best in no heels (often called Zero Drop) and a wide toe box (not a pointed shoe) that leaves room for toes to spread. But there’s lots of room for improvement, and even if you never wear minimal shoes, you can improve the health of your feet, lower legs and knees with a gradual reduction in heel height for your most regular shoe wear.

Since this is winter, here are a few links to some gorgeous boots with no heels:

Made in Canada, Indigenous owned: Manitobah Mukluks
Soft Star boots handmade in Oregon and offer free shipping in the US AND Canada!
These boots from LL Bean are popular – slightly narrower in the toes than the above
Probably the warmest boots come from Steger

Even a standard running shoe has a 1″ positive heel! (Note also the toe spring – the lift under the toes meant to assist toe off in a running gait. Big toe is now pointing up (extended) all the time, putting too much pressure on the ball of the toe.

Looking for a minimal or zero drop runner:
Lems – my favourite
Altra – my first zero drop shoe – a great transition shoe and city shoe for the cushioning

FEB WORKSHOP: LOVE YOUR FUNCTIONAL FEET! Join me on Feb. 25 from 11:00-1:00 for a 2 hour workshop on how to improve the health and function of your tender tootsies. This is one of my favourite workshops to run. I just LOVE FEET (not in a creepy way). $40.00
RSVP- UPDATE ONLY 2 SPOTS LEFT

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