ARE YOUR OLD SHOES DAMAGING YOUR BODY?
October 2022, Christophe Champs
This might be the 3 million pound question of the industry.
Before answering how often you should replace your shoes, I would ask you how often you like to change them. Because I need to get to know you before I recommend you what to do and not to do.
When it comes to buy shoes, there are two main types of clients, let’s see what type of customer you are first.
WHAT TYPE OF CUSTOMER ARE YOU?
#1 The SHOPPERS: Including Shoe collectors and Fast fashion followers
Despite all the bad things we can say about fast fashion, the concept is good to make sure you change your shoes regularly.
The only problem is that we try not to spend much money in a product with a short lifetime.
Manufacturers know it, and adapt their production costs accordingly, dragging down the quality of your footwear, the first support of your whole body.
Light, soft, and minimalistic shoes will be the cheapest to produce, their support minimalised, and their risk to damage your body maximalised.
However, the great thing with shoe collectors is that they alternate the shoes they wear, wearing each pair less and giving their cushion some rest.
A bit like a runner who runs every day. He or she should never run two days in a row with the same pair. Because the foam used in the soles need up to 48 hours to get back in shape when running on them – applying up to 3 time your bodyweight.
Therefore, every brand tends to add some encapsulated air (Nike), gel (Asics) or other technologies to speed this process up.
But the risk of running on a pair of shoes out of shape is that those shoes mislead your foot and damage your body.
#2 The BUYERS and the INVESTORS.
Men are pretty good at that but this affect both sexe. Because most of us show little interest about fashion, even less when we age, we would tend to buy several identical pairs or at least looking alike, changing the colour to avoid being tagged as “boring”.
Besides, we would try to look smarter by investing in a pair of shoes with either, a great reputation such as RM Williams for a pair of Chelsea boots, or a top notch making such as the Goodyear method which can be re-soled entirely without altering the shape of the upper of the shoe.
Saying that, we either save those shoes for rare occasions or we wear them all the time without really keeping an eye on their wear and tear, because “they are good shoes anyways”!
Of course, this is a dangerous behaviour for our body health, because shoes are, beside our mom, our biggest support, and we need them in their best shape to live our best life or at least to live our life at our best, pain and injury free.
Usually when a pair of shoes become your favourite one, or simply when, they are, one of those “classic / must have”, we tend to keep them way too long.
However, even if the shoe treads look good, it doesn’t mean the cushion isn’t gone.
The shoes might look alright from above when you look down at your feet, but if you check them on a flat surface from behind, you could feel ashamed to find out that, this is what people see when they look at you walking down the street.
Your image in those perennially fashionable shoes is not that great anymore.
To avoid you this embarrassment but more importantly the damage of your body, and experience unnecessary pain, I putted a little “Worn-out shoes 101” guide below for you.
WORN-OUT SHOES 101
Below are few tips to help you catch what a bad making is and spot earlier any dangerous wear and tear on your footwear. A checklist for collectors, fast fashion followers, investors, and buyers to avoid unnecessary pain and injuries.
Acceptable and unacceptable wear and tear
At first there are the shoes defects:
Unacceptable you can spot when you purchase them:
Asymmetry around the heel counter. They will negatively affect your alignment, balance, and posture.
A sharp spur sticking out. That will simply hurt or more seriously arm you, being a source of infection and leading to an antalgic gait.
Excess of glue. Beside the aesthetic issue, this weakens the shoe and leads to uneven wear and tear, significantly reducing the lifetime of your shoes.
Then come the natural signs of wear and tear.
Those signs must and will show on your shoes as you wear them and should not worry you until the critical points below are reached:
Shoes or heel counter out of shape.
A foot that overpronates or supinates will show over time, on the shoe-heel, the toe box or on the entire footwear.
Unacceptable, this sign is damaging your body. Get rid of those shoes before having any orthotics made.
Because a pair of orthotics that lead your foot placed in a pair of shoes out of shape that mislead your foot will simply not work, be uncomfortable and wear out quicker.
Tip: Use a wooden shoe tree
Heel bevelled on the outside. As we are main to walk “slightly ducked” toes pointing outwards with a 7-to-12-degree angle (Fick angle), it is completely normal that you’re the back of your shoes-sole appeared bevelled on the outside corner of the heel. However, make sure you resole them once the first layer of the heel is worn own, or this will affect your knees easily or simply increase any existing pronation and impact your joints all the way up.
Tip: Rotate your shoes, give their material some rest.
Holes in the mesh.
Acceptable as they won’t damage your body, but you must be okay with the look of it and the rain coming through.
A part of the shoe is missing.
It can be part of your laces or part of your shoes heel. In both case it is not acceptable but a simple vising at your local cobbler can do the trick.
A smooth treads (part of the shoes that contacts the ground)
Unacceptable as this increases your risk to slip and fall on wet floor, mud, loose gravels…
Dirty shoes, or soaking wet. Those won’t damage your body but think about it: Shoes are dirtier than a toilet sit. It has been scientifically proven in 2020, a study led by researchers at the University of Arizona found nine different species of bacteria on the shoes of participants – and that's not all! Over the course of two weeks, researchers discovered 440,000 units of bacteria on a single pair of shoes! At any given time, millions of bacteria live in our shoes, along with fungi and molds. Bacteria like E. coli were extremely common on the outside of the shoes.
Simply Clean your shoes avoiding using a washing machine and a tambour dryer as they could shrink, bend with the high temperature or the glue unstick with the amount of water used.
Tips: (1) Stuff your wet shoes with newspaper to adsorb the water, drying them naturally around a decent shape. (2) Store in a dry place.
Shoes rigidify by sticking mud.
Cleaning your shoes after a muddy trail or hike is a bit like cleaning your barbecue right after you used it. Easier to do and you’ll keep both longer.
The material used to make the upper of your shoes are supposed to give, therefore your feet feel good, and the shoes can adapt to your foot shape and flex rather than being a source of inflammation, corns, or blisters for your skin.
Wearing worn-out shoes is dangerous for your feet, ankle, knee, hip, back and neck health.
The list of signs in this article is not exhaustive but resume what we meet the most at the PODO Clinic & Workshop.
The recent lockdowns showed how important wearing good shoes was.
Actually, what kept the clinic busy after the first lockdown was not people who didn’t have orthotics! In fact, most of them didn’t have any before. But everyone suddenly stopped wearing the basic support they were providing their body with: Their shoes.
Stepping around the house on hard floor without knowing that we put much more weight on our feet when stepping around indoor (around 120% of our body weight) than when properly walking outdoor with a proper arm swing that offload our feet from our own weight, putting then around only 80% of our body weight on them.
When it comes to running shoes, on which you will apply almost 300% of your body weight, keep in mind that their soles last longer than their cushion, so if the soles are worn down, it's time for new ones to make sure they keep on absorbing the shocks and protect your joints.
Of course, being barefoot is great to keep the muscles working whenever and wherever they can (sand, grass, carpet….).
But as soon as you must wear shoes, make sure they are supportive and in a good shape. Their padding and support are essential to protect your body when walking on hard surfaces.
Spend enough time to check them in store, check them regularly on a flat surface, get rid of any pair associated to any body pain and finally consult your local Podiatrist if you have any concern.
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From wonderful walks in Hyde Park, Regents Park, the Thames path, Hampstead Heath Circular or simply when commuting to work through Oxford street, Piccadilly Circus, Covent garden, Mayfair, Soho... every step matters at Podo London!
Besides educating patients and sharing our tips to make your body works better, the Podo Clinic and Workshop, offers a thorough assessment to assess and analyse your posture, gait, and biomechanics. Providing all type of patients with custom orthotics made in-house, directly moulded onto the feet and ready to wear at the end of a single 90 minutes appointment.
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