We are surrounded by deeply entrenched, conventional beliefs that our feet are inherently misshapen and flawed. Visit almost any athletic shoe store or podiatrist, and you will likely be recommended arch support or other shoe technology because your feet strike the ground in a “flat,” uneven, or unstable manner. Developing painful, permanent deformities, like bunions or hammertoes, is virtually accepted as part of the normal aging process.
It is believed that problems with our feet must be fixed with orthotics, arch support and surgery. And when our pain persists, we are left with anti-inflammatories, painkillers and cortisone shots. However, there is nothing innately “wrong” or flawed with the majority of feet. Instead, our once beautiful feet have been damaged by decades of improper footwear that lead to severe foot dysfunction and pain. Even if you don’t have foot problems now, over 75% of North Americans will develop some type of foot or ankle condition in their lifetime[i].
Our feet are arguably the most important, yet most neglected, part of our skeletal structure. They allow us to move, stand, balance and exercise, and they connect us to Mother Earth. Yet we suffocate them in confining socks, shove them into ill-fitting shoes, and abuse them relentlessly, day after day. We rarely pay them any attention or express gratitude for carrying us through life. It’s time to give your feet a well-deserved break and learn more about Natural Foot Health!
Natural Foot Health is a philosophy of foot and whole body care inspired by the pioneering work of the late Dr. William Rossi, D.P.M. This philosophy was expanded upon, refined, and made accessible by Dr. Ray McClanahan, D.P.M., who has served as a mentor to the doctors at Revive Naturopathic Medicine, Inc.
Drs. Rossi and McClanahan are experts on natural gait and foot function. Their extensive research and clinical experience revealed that the best way to treat most foot problems is by allowing the foot to function as nature intended. Returning the feet to their natural shape can eliminate existing foot problems and prevent new problems from arising. The doctors at Revive are privileged to have worked with Dr. McClanahan and extremely grateful for his willingness to share this incredibly powerful knowledge.
The human foot is designed to be widest at the end of the toes, with the toes spread and extended. If you look at the feet of an infant or small child, you will see this foot structure. Unfortunately, in our society, most footwear alters our natural foot shape.
In many un-shoed cultures or societies where sandals dominate, the natural foot shape seen in infants and small children is maintained throughout life. As such, the integrity of the natural foot structure is sustained, and foot and other joint problems are virtually non-existent in these populations[ii].
Through clinical experience and studying the natural foot health philosophies of Drs. Rossi and McClanahan, four key aspects have been identified that are necessary for promoting and maintaining natural foot health and addressing common foot-related musculoskeletal conditions. These four key aspects serve as the foundation of the Save Your Soles health program at Revive.
- Analysis of gait, foot structure and current footwear
- Education to allow for an understanding of natural foot structure and the importance of proper footwear
- Proper realignment of toes and feet
- Natural pain management
By implementing a natural approach to foot health, hundreds of people suffering from foot, ankle, knee and back pain have experienced tremendous relief. Many also report enhanced athletic performance, increased balance and stability, and improved quality of life. Furthermore, studies have shown decreased rates of osteoporosis of the knee in participants who implement natural foot health by wearing appropriate shoes.[iii]
If you’ve read this far, it is possible that these new and different ideas have been met with some internal resistance. This is to be expected, considering what we wear (clothing, footwear, jewelry, etc.) is a form of self-expression. Learning that one way we express ourselves may actually be detrimental to our overall physical health can be challenging to accept. Anytime we are presented with information that contradicts what we believe or have been told for many years, we may question its validity and can be reluctant to implement change. Natural foot health proposes a lifestyle change. Resistance to change is normal.
Before deciding if you are willing to implement natural foot health, sit with this information, and listen to your body’s response. The first step to changing your foot health is to ask yourself if this philosofeet resonates with your body. Do your feet agree with this message? When your feet, knees or back ache at the end of the day, this is your body saying, “Something isn’t working for me.” If your injuries seem to linger, you continuously re-injure the same part(s) of your body, or you’ve experienced changes in your foot structure, like bunions, is it time to consider another approach?
Does integrating natural foot health into your life mean you can never wear a pair of fabulous high heels or trendy dress shoes? No. The footwear you choose can help you feel sexy or handsome. Enjoy expressing your own style. But consider, at least for the majority of the time, doing so in footwear that doesn’t deform your feet. We may be attached to a particular style as a way to express ourselves, but what is really behind that? A fear of being different or not fitting in? A fear of being just like everyone else? What changes are you willing to make to love your feet and foster long-term musculoskeletal health, from the ground up?
[i] American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). “Did you know that 75% of Americans will have a foot problem in their lifetime.” Feb 15, 2013, 12:08pm. Tweet.
[ii] McClanahan, Ray. Bunions & Hammertoes. www.nwfootankle.com
[iii] Shakoor N, Block JA. Walking Barefoot Decreases Loading on the Lower Extremity Joints in Knee Osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Sep;54(9):2923-7.