Healthy feet, healthy back

Having healthy feet is vital for our whole body and therefore our overall well-being, too. So it’s about time we gave them a little bit of TLC – starting with the correct footwear.

Text: Robert Wildi; photo: Unsplash

There’s not much that Jan Swager van Dok from Holland hasn’t seen during his time as a physiotherapist. People with back problems, knee problems, muscular imbalances and all other possible physical complaints that all too often affect our mental well-being. In many cases the cause was one and the same: “Many of my patients stand not on their feet but rather on the sides of their feet”, he says, meaning a foot malposition. “Unfortunately there isn’t a part of the body that has been more looked over and less trained”, says Jan Swager van Dok, who has been running a practice in Grenchen for many years.

“Many of my patients stand not on their feet but rather on the sides of their feet.”
Jan Swager van Dok, physiotherapist

Flat feet or fallen arches take their toll on the whole body

He often sees feet that have no muscle tension whatsoever. As a consequence the arches of the feet collapse in on themselves resulting in flat feet or fallen arches. “This malformation means that, for a lot of people, their centre of gravity is outside the base of support rather than over.” The inevitable consequence is that the joints are subject to differing loads, wear, tear and pain. In addition you can suffer from muscular imbalances which in the medium-term can result in pain in the whole body.

“Foot position has a significant effect on hip stability.”
Dominik Keller, masters in Sports and Movement Sciences

Foot position effects on the back

With a Masters in Sports and Movement Sciences, Dominik Keller can vouch for this. He works for Numo, a company specialising in orthopaedics, and has been performing gait analysis for years. His clients come from all age groups and include several professional athletes. “Foot position has a significant effect on hip stability which directly affects the back and overall posture.”

An unhealthy foot position can often result in medium to long-term consequences such as arthrosis in the feet, knees and hips. Heel spur, bunions and pain in the Achilles heel, ligaments and shins are also common complaints, too.

Proper footwear improves your posture

Both Swager van Dok and Keller agree that proper footwear can greatly improve foot health and general body posture. Numo and many other orthopaedic specialists recommend custom-made shoe insertsin order to correct foot malformation.

Jan Swager van Dok, on the other hand, decided to take a different path 8 years ago and developed his own footwear for healthy feet. The fruits of his long-standing labour with a team of specialists is known as the «X10D». The shoe deliberately doesn’t correct incorrect weight-bearing in the feet and joints, but rather encourages it, thus forcing the muscles of the wearer to compensate with the body’s own resources. Swager van Dok describes the feet and body as being ‘invited’ to move properly by the shoes. This encourages long-term training and activation of the foot muscles without having to make a huge effort day-to-day, thus helping the wearer to create a strong and stable basis. “This results in improved posture and often dramatically reduces pain and discomfort”, says Jan Swager van Dok about the many users of his shoes.

Health tip: go barefoot as often as you can

Feet are able to breathe properly without shoes and socks. This is why going barefoot can work wonders and improves foot health as it forces you to maintain an upright posture. Uneven surfaces on the ground are evened out through proper counter movements, which helps prevent the development of foot malformations.