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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

When Barefoot Just Won’t Do

Jun 02, 2013 04:06PM ● By Sharalee Hoelscher

Flip-flops, sandals, athletic shoes, high heels and other footwear could be the cause of back pain, knee problems, plantar fasciitis, foot pain and even neck pain. The arch of the foot must be able to drop down and spring back up with each step. When we step down, the arch absorbs shock that would otherwise be transmitted up into the knees, hips, spine, shoulders and neck.

As we roll off the toes to lift the foot off the ground, the arch springs up, helping to propel us forward. Without this spring forward, we overtax muscles, tendons and ligaments. This normal movement of the arch, combined with full use of the ankle hinge and toe hinge, is the driving engine of more than just a comfortable stride. It allows proper movement of the hips, shoulders, arms and entire spine. The whole body moves more easily, freely and in coordinated balance, rather than a jarring and disjointed effort to walk or run.

Unless a doctor has prescribed specific footwear, shoes that allow proper function of our feet should help us feel our best. When we kick our foot forward, the shoe should stay on our foot. Flip-flops require the foot’s muscles to work to keep the shoe on, rather than move freely in the walk cycle. Arch supports (including most orthotics) usually offer so much support that the arch is not able to drop down properly and absorb shock. If the arch is already held up, it cannot spring up to propel us forward. Unless a doctor or podiatrist recommends arch support, look for a shoe that is flat inside or has minimal arch support.

Almost any shoe will bend at the toe hinge, but if it also bends at the arch, there is a better chance our foot’s arch will also bend the way it should. Keep heels as low as possible so the ankle hinge can function. This helps the hamstrings from getting shorter and tighter, and allows body weight to be distributed across the whole foot, rather than mostly on the toes and ball of the foot.

Also, be sure there is plenty of room for toes to spread out from side-to-side, because toes help to balance our posture. Squeezing them together can contribute to bunions and other foot problems.

Feet that function correctly help the entire body to move freely and without pain. Finding the right footwear can make summer or any season as comfortable as can be.

Sharalee Hoelscher, RCST, a certified Rolfer for 21 years, treats people with a wide variety of physical challenges and health issues at her office in Pensacola. She can be reached at 850-450-8508 or

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