By Debra Bell
of the Weekly Staff
In April, help those aching feet by learning how to make them happy.
An unsupported foot can cause systemic problems, such as sprains, strains, plantar fascitis, and knee, hip and back pain. But according to chiropractor Dr. Robin Gooden, the owner of Back in Balance Chiropractic at 16 Penn Plaza, Suite 22 in Bangor, it doesn’t have to be that way.
And he wants to share some simple ways to improve your foot health this month, just in time for National Foot Health Awareness Month.
“National foot month is about encouraging people to understand more of how their feet influence their health,” Gooden said. “Most people think they have two feet, and that’s all there is to it. But especially for our office, we view the feet as part of the whole body and a very large contributor to the health of the whole body.”
A stable body starts with a good base.
The foot is a complex body part, Gooden said. In fact, it has 26 bones, 33 joints, and 19 muscles, 107 ligaments, three arches, and many nerves and blood vessels; that’s one-quarter of the bones in the human body.
Because the feet are so complex, understanding how to care for them is important.
“Your feet are your body’s primary shock absorber,” Gooden said. “Although we view [the feet] as static, they are dynamic in how they work. When these joints and bones are not aligned properly or functioning properly, it causes changes further up body.”
Gooden offers two items for people to consider to improve their foot health.
First is the use of arch supports, specifically custom arch supports.
“If [a person is] having any kind of foot, ankle, or knee pain they should be fitted for custom arch supports,” he said.
Arch supports vary from inexpensive supports that offer more of a cushion to higher-quality supports that raise and support the foot’s three arches, to custom supports developed by a chiropractor or podiatrist.
So why arch supports? Gooden said it’s because the foot is never rigid all the time. Rigid arch supports should be avoided. A softer, more flexible orthotic is a better option.
And properly fit arch supports are especially important for active, sports-oriented children. That’s because the supports can help prevent ankle sprains, back, knee, and hip pain, and shin splints by offering support and balance.
“Chiropractors look at the whole body effect,” Gooden said. “If you are over 100 pounds, you should have arch supports. Only 10 percent of the population have high arches, but both high and low arches need to be supported. The earlier you can support them the less of a chance you’ll have pain.”
But a proper arch support doesn’t allow the foot to become lazy, he said. “Arch support in the shoe does not cause deconditioning,” Gooden noted. “It’s not disengaging the muscles. [Instead] it’s allowing the muscles to work the same through the arch supports. If you are in sports, it’s a must.”
Someone adding arch supports to their footwear should let the feet get used to the supports a little at a time to get the best results. Gooden suggested starting with three hours of use a day and after a week slowly adding another hour each day until the arch supports are worn all day.
Second, shoes are important factors to foot care, but it’s what’s inside that counts. Gooden suggested investing in shoes or sandals that already offer some arch support. However, flip flops are a no-no for prolonged summertime use. Save the $2 thong sandals for the pool or locker room.
And ladies, high heels might actually be hurtful. That’s because heels load the foot in an unnatural way, Gooden said. High heels can cause calf muscles to tighten and reduce the interaction of the foot’s arch. Prolonged use of high heels can cause myriad structural problems as well as bunions, ingrown toenails, and arthritic conditions.
“You’re completely stressing all bones in your feet, knees, hips, and your back,” Gooden said. “[Down the line] it makes you have ugly feet, and that won’t make you feel pretty.”
Back in Balance Wellness Center will offer “Pain Relief is Two Feet Away,” a free seminar for people to learn more about foot care, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 16 and April 30, at the Bangor office. The seminars will cover foot care, what to look for during hiking season, and other topics. The office will offer free colorized 3-D scans using the Foot Leveler’s technology throughout April.
For information, visit www.backinbalancechiro.com.