Foot Care is Back Care
I used to suffer with persistent lower back pain. After multiple trips to the doctors and various physiotherapists I was diagnosed with having chronically tight psoas muscles (pronounced SO-as). The psoas muscles are large, thick, structural muscles; the internal scaffolding that connects your torso to your legs. They run diagonally through your abdomen and affect your posture and help to stabilize the spine.
I was told I had the physic of a ‘caveman’. When I explained what I did for a living, spending my days sitting on logs, squatting and hunched over working on the ground, chopping logs and carving onto tree stumps, the physio was not surprised. But…cavemen were designed to walk, run, swim, jump and squat ... they were NOT designed to sit for long periods of time on logs (or chairs for that matter). Many of us only use our anterior muscle chain – from sitting down with a morning coffee, to driving to work or commuting on a train in a hunched sitting position, sitting at a desk all day and then maybe go to the gym and knock out a few crunches or get on the bike or rowing machine, then collapsing on the sofa in the evening – all semi recumbent positions. Is it any wonder that many people end up with a shortened psoas and a lordotic posture (an excessive inward curvature of the lower back) that causes lower back pain?
I started to stretch my psoas every day or two, which helped immensely, but I still had lingering lower back pain and used to ‘put my back out’ once or twice a year. That’s when I ‘switched on’ to minimal footwear and found Vivobarefoot. Cavemen did not clump around in massive heavy boots all day with thick heel blocks - they wore flat-soled moccasins. It was my footwear that was causing my bad back!
Just as a tiny pebble is able to throw a huge wagon out of the ruts and change it’s trajectory; so too can a relatively small heel block. Raising the heel telegraphs it’s affect through the entire body. By initially elevating the ankle it stress the knee as it tries to compensate, which in turn alters the tilt of the pelvis as it tries to correct again, arching and stressing the lower back, which hunches the upper back and projects the head… all from a one inch lift.
A large toe-box in the shoe that allows your toes to splay naturally also massively improves your sense of balance and ability to stand ‘tall’. The transition to minimal footwear needs to be gradual, otherwise you will stress your Achilles tendon and blow out your calf muscles, but it’s worth it. Two hundred thousand years of human evolution can’t be wrong - Once your heels are back on the ground your back will thank you!
© Words and Illustration - Ben McNutt - 2018