Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Changing your Shoes Decreases Knee Pain

If you're suffering from knee pain or osteoarthritis then you need to rethink your wardrobe and how it is affecting your foot health. If you haven't been paying attention to how your choice in shoe can affect how much torsion and pressure is put on your knees, then you are doing your body a severe injustice.

When you wear shoes with a "positive" heel you are doing the equivalent of wearing a heel. (Yes, that is correct. Even if you are a man you could be wearing a heel!) Positive heeled shoes have a large wedge underneath the heel and cause our weight to be shifted forward over the pads of the foot and the toes which aren't meant to be the load bearing structures in the feet. This can lead to foot pain, plantar fasciitis, bunions, and some pretty gnarly looking feet! (Yes, I said gnarly and no I don't want to show you pictures of some of the feet I've seen walking into my office.) In addition, the weight shifting on the front of the foot can cause excessive loading over the arch in the foot and lead to fallen arches due to weaken muscles that have spent their lifetime encased in restrictive footwear with no where to stretch and no use for them to move. But the real reason you stopped in today was to learn about how shoes can affect your knees, so I'll get back on track.

When you wear these positive heeled shoes they can also increase the amount of pressure put on the joints in your knees and lead to premature degeneration, pain, muscle imbalances, and even osteoarthritis. All of which are not fun by the way. So you need to lay off the positive heeled shoes and switch to either negative heeled shoes or flats. I personally love and highly recommend Earth Shoes because they have incorporated this negative heel technology of 3.7 degrees of a heel in the front of the shoe to keep your weight back on your heel. I have four different pair in different colors and styles to compliment my wardrobe and go with almost any outfit. I also find them very comfortable because not only do they put my weight over the load bearing ankle (where it should be) but they also have a large toe box (the width of the shoe where your toes go) to minimize pressure and rubbing that can also disfigure your feet. I've also had much experience with the fact that wearing these shoes all day long does NOT cause foot pain or knee pain while the gazillion other shoes I have in my closet do. There's also a few other more sporty brands that I'd recommend including Vibrams, Zemgear, Sockwa, and I've even seen that Nike and New Balance have come out with some as well.

Recent research from the University of Sao Paulo has found that wearing minimalist shoes which are shoes that lack supportive structure, arches, and thick heel padding can also decrease the loads on the knee in patients with osteoarthritis. In addition, their newest research has shown that these minimalist shoes also decreased the load on the knee even when climbing up and down stairs, which is usually the worst issue for osteoarthritis patients. Want more info on the study? 

So what can you do to decrease your knee pain?

1) Switch to a negative heeled shoe or a flat shoe.
2) Let your tootsies out of their shoe cages at least 2 hours or more a day. Make sure that you spend this time walking so you can move those joints and stretch out the muscles associated for happier feet.
3) Strengthen the supportive muscles of the knee joint to make sure that you lessen the load on the joint. If you're not sure what kind of exercises to do or not sure which muscles are weak, please make appointment with your biomechanically inclined doctor to get some advice and guidance. If you need a hint on this one think chiropractor, physical therapist, or orthopedist.
4) Get your feet adjusted by a chiropractor! I've had quite a few patients come into my office with knee pain and are amazed by the fact that an adjustment can correct the mechanics of the foot and leg and even decrease low back pain. If you need a chiropractor, I just happen to know a local one that fills the qualifications for #3 and #4 on this list.