The relationship between ‘foot core’ and the prevention of plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and other related injuries
Cold weather is upon us, and you are probably packing away the summer sandals, and swapping them for your thick, cushy warm shoes, but there may be benefits to roaming around barefoot, even during the winter. Do not kiss your barefoot days goodbye just yet.
Studies have shown that balance and posture are significantly improved by barefoot activities, which aid in the prevention of common injuries such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, bursitis, stress fractures, and tendonitis (in the Achilles). Foot muscles are often an afterthought and not something you may associate with having core strength. Typically, core strength is thought of as the abdominal area. While this association is certainly true, the muscles of the feet also require a core strength of sorts.
Patrick McKeon, a professor at Ithaca College’s School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, uses his research to point out how the foot and leg are comprised of “extrinsic” (large) and “intrinsic” (small) muscles, along with nerves. The nerves send signals to our brain, creating a feedback cycle. When this feedback cycle is interrupted, it leads to common injuries such as overuse.
Shoes are to blame for this interruption of feedback by interfering with the body and its environment. A thick-soled shoe essentially acts as a damper, blocking information from the feet to the brain. Our muscles bear a great deal of force for our body. When information from the smaller muscles of the foot is interrupted, those extrinsic muscles begin to take on more than they can handle, overcompensating to the point of exhaustion. At which point, the surrounding tendons, ligaments, and bones begin to become overused, resulting in injuries.
Do not throw out your shoes just yet. Shoes certainly help provide the necessary support our feet need but at a cost. We are causing an interruption of our body’s natural feedback cycle. McKeon recommends trying to go barefoot whenever possible, such as inside your home, to help reintroduce the necessary feedback cycle. Activities that do not require footwear for safety, such as yoga, Pilates, martial arts, and dance, provide an opportunity for you to strengthen those core muscles of the feet.
Rebuilding the core muscles of your feet may also help save you money by reducing the need for those high-dollar sneakers. Although, opting for the cheapest pair of shoes is not always ideal either. McKeon believes in finding a balance between healthy core muscles in your feet and adequate footwear, as to not rely solely on your shoe soles for support.
Ithaca College. “Going barefoot: Strong ‘foot core’ could prevent plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and other common injuries.” https://www.ithaca.edu/news/releases/going-barefoot:-strong-foot-core-could-prevent-plantar-fasciitis,-shin-splints,-and-other-common-injuries-40536