No one likes achy, sore, or strained feet, but the importance of foot health goes far beyond just pain-free steps. Keeping your feet healthy and comfortable is a pivotal part of your overall wellness and can greatly improve your quality of life. Foot pain affects your entire lower body and even your back – not just your feet. It can also prevent you from staying active, which could lead to other health problems.
"Having healthy, pain-free feet is essential to living an active lifestyle," says Matt Gooch, Certified Pedorthist and Vice President of Product and Innovation at Superfeet. "Foot pain is one of the single largest deterrents to the average adult spending more time on their feet."
Luckily, simple changes can often have huge benefits for your feet. Let’s go over some common foot conditions, how footwear can impact how your feet feel, and why keeping your feet healthy is so important.
The Benefits of Good Foot Health
If you’ve ever experienced foot pain, you know the toll it can take on your entire life. Serious cases can impact where you go and what you do. Even mild discomfort can have lasting effects, especially if you work on your feet all day. In other words, it’s not something you can tiptoe around – you have to put your foot down!
There are obvious benefits to maintaining good foot health like less pain, improved foot strength and flexibility, and better mobility and independence. But there are less obvious rewards, as well, like better posture and body alignment, reduced joint pain and inflammation, and greater overall well-being and mental health. When you’re happy on your feet, everything from complex workouts to simply walking the dog become more enjoyable.
Common Foot Problems and Their Causes
Feet are complex. With over 100 ligaments, muscles and tendons, 33 joints and 28 bones (including the two sesamoid bones under the 1st metatarsal bone) per foot, it’s important to keep the whole system working well together to prevent things from going wrong. But injuries do happen, and some conditions are more common than others. Here are some of the most common causes of foot pain.
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation caused by excessive stretching of the tissue on the bottom of your foot. This broad connective structure is called the plantar fascia and acts like a big rubber band connecting your heel bone to your toes. It is the first line of support as your foot hits the ground.
Hours of work or running on hard surfaces, especially in flat shoes, can put too much strain on the plantar fascia and cause immense pain at the back of the foot where the fascia tissue meets the heel bone.
Feet that are more flexible could be prone to additional stress placed on the plantar fascia during walking, running, and prolonged standing. This is the most common cause of “heel pain,” though the heel is not the only area in which the plantar fascia can become inflamed. For more information on plantar fasciitis, check out Plantar Fasciitis Explained.
Foot Stress Fractures
Bone fractures seem scary and, while never a good thing, aren’t always as dire as they sound. Stress fractures usually refer to microscopic fissures in the bones of your foot that develop over a long period of time from repetitive stress. They rarely require surgery but can cause intense pain and should be treated as soon as possible.
Stress fractures are primarily caused by prolonged activity that exerts forces on the foot in repetitive ways. They can also occur when new actions or exercises are introduced to a routine. Proper support and stability under the foot, especially during high impact activities, helps protect your feet and prevent stress fractures.
Flat Feet or Fallen Arches
For many people, the tendons in the foot connect in a way that lifts the middle of the sole. You are said to have flat feet if you have a minimal arch or no arch at all — the entire bottom surface of your foot is in complete or near complete contact with the ground while standing. When you walk barefoot in the sand, your tracks show a complete outline of your feet. Someone with high arches would leave marks only with their heel and forefoot.
The shape of your feet is determined, for the most part, by your genes. Most people have flat feet as small children as the internal structure of the foot has not fully developed. As people age, many people form a visible contour in the middle of their feet. Others do not. Either situation is considered normal. Some use the term “fallen arches” to describe when your feet become flatter and less contoured over time either because of an injury or simply due to aging.
Having flat feet doesn’t automatically mean you’ll experience pain, but if you do, hard, flat surfaces, and unsupportive footwear can exacerbate the problem.
The Importance of Choosing the Right Footwear
Though there are many different foot problems and injuries that range in symptoms from mild discomfort to agonizing pain, many have the same simple solution: proper support and cushioning under the foot. That’s why choosing the right footwear for better foot health is key.
Most running and athletic shoes come with some support built in. But the removable liners that come with your shoes may not meet your specific needs or provide enough structure to support your arches. "People are often confused as to how the insole and the support features of the shoe interact,” says Matt Gooch. “The inside of most shoes is relatively flat. So, the anatomical, three-dimensional Superfeet shape built into our insoles can interact with the foot in ways that a shoe by itself cannot. Our insoles fill in the empty space under the foot, increasing contact surface area and helping to redistribute forces to reduce stress and strain on your entire body, not just your feet."
Superfeet insoles offer contoured support that hugs your arches and cradles your heels while energizing foam cushions your whole foot for ultimate comfort in a variety of shoes. The signature Superfeet shape allows your feet to move the way they are supposed to. "We make a wide variety of insoles to ensure that we can fit every foot and fit in every shoe. For over 40 years, Superfeet insoles have delivered essential, life-changing shape under the feet of our customers," says Matt Gooch.
There are a wide variety of Superfeet products for improving foot health and comfort, including insoles designed for pain relief or insoles engineered for specific activities like running, hiking, winter sports and hockey. There are also Superfeet insoles great for casual everyday footwear.
Tips for Maintaining Good Foot Health
Keeping your feet healthy and comfortable is vital to your overall health and well-being. Regular checkups with a podiatrist can ensure you’re getting the care you need but there are also things you can do on your own to maintain good foot health. Here are a few tips to help keep your feet happy and feeling good.
While overexertion can cause pain, not doing enough can be detrimental to your foot health as well. It’s important to walk, run, or participate in other activities to keep the muscles in your feet strong and healthy. Strong muscles are more resilient and less prone to injury.
Stretching the muscles in your feet is an important addition to exercising. Stretching keeps your feet loose and flexible, preventing tears. Stretching can also help alleviate the pain of certain foot conditions, like these stretches for plantar fasciitis.
Footwear and Insoles
Stretching and exercise won’t mean much if the cause of your pain is unsupportive footwear. Chances are, your pain won’t go away or could get worse. With the right combination of shoes and supportive insoles, your feet can truly live their best life.
Don't Neglect Your Feet
Your feet are the foundation of your body. They keep you upright while standing and propel you forward as you walk. They are vital to how we as humans experience the world. And yet, their importance can sometimes get taken for granted – until they’re in pain. Foot aches, soreness, and general discomfort that keep you from working or enjoying your favorite activities reveal the huge part our feet play in our daily lives.
That’s why keeping your feet healthy goes a long way in keeping your whole body healthy. Don't neglect your feet – prioritize foot care for better overall health and well-being. Giving your feet proper support and cushioning, no matter the shoes your wearing, is a key part of that. Whether you’re specifically seeking out insoles and inserts for reducing foot pain and discomfort, or just want your feet to be as comfortable as they can be, Superfeet insoles provide the arch structure, heel support, and cushioning that leave your feet feeling better than they’ve ever felt before.