Stability shoes. Neutral runner. Insoles. Barefoot. Minimalist. Maximum cushion. I just want happy feet! How do I make that happen??
Did you know the human foot is comprised of 28 bones and 30 joints? In addition to that, the human foot has over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Those are some substantial numbers. We don’t often think of our feet as being that important, but they’re complex body parts that are responsible for support and locomotion of our entire body. That’s pretty amazing.
This post is sponsored by Zelus Insoles. All opinions, reviews, and photography are my own.
There are a few types of athletes who constantly think about their feet. Runners and dancers are among those that do. Without our feet feeling amazing, we’re pretty much SOL when it comes to our sport of choice. Wouldn’t you agree? Since I’m a runner, I’m going to focus on feet from a runner’s perspective – but this information can easily be applied to anyone needing some TLC for his or her tootsies.
How to Keep Your Feet Strong and Happy
I’m not a doctor, physical therapist, or healthcare provider. These opinions are my own based on my own research and experiences. What I say here may not work for you, but it does work for me.
The muscles, bones, and joints of the foot work in unison to not only provide locomotion with the legs, but also give us invaluable feedback about our environment. When we’re barefoot, think of all the things we can tell about our surroundings. We can tell what kind of ground we’re on – sand, tile, mud, concrete. We can feel if the terrain is rough or smooth. The ways our feet grip, our toes splay, or our arches relax or contract are all ways we learn about what’s around us. Through our feet, we receive an enormous amount of feedback.
Strong feet are happy feet!
Aside from learning about our surroundings with bare feet, ditching the shoes is a great way to strengthen your feet and provide support for your entire body. By removing our shoes, we can utilize and strengthen more muscles and tendons within our feet. Strong feet and toes provide ample stability and strength for the rest of the body.
Strength Conditioning, Myofascial Release, and Stretching
There are lots of exercises you can do to ensure you have strong, healthy feet. These include tracing the ABCs with your toes to strengthen your ankles, doing toe yoga and toes pose, and the pen-penny exercise to strengthen your arches.
Myofascial release and stretching are also important components to strong and healthy feet. Exercises that fall into this category are rolling your arches on a golf ball, toes pose, or standing on an acupressure mat.
Choosing the Right Footwear
Make sure you wear the right footwear. There is no one-size-fits-all shoe. That’s a fact. There are tons of footwear options available and what fits you perfectly will not be great for me and vice versa. My advice? Head to your local specialty running shop for a fitting. They will put you in the right shoes for what you need. Choose the footwear best suited for your activity level, the terrain, and your footstrike and stride.
Pro tip: shop around to find the best fit for YOU.
Don’t be afraid to shop around. Go to multiple stores and see how your feet feel in the recommended shoes. Then compare notes. If different stores put you in the same shoe, it’s likely the right fit. If they each put you in something completely different (like a stability vs. a neutral shoe), then you’ll have some decisions to make. Running shoes aren’t cheap (neither are the injuries that can be caused by wearing improper footwear). Being a savvy consumer in this case is your best option.
If you’re already an avid runner, it has been recommended to take your old shoes with you to the store so the sales person can inspect the wear pattern on the bottoms of your shoes. Personally, I don’t like this approach and I never take my old shoes with me. I want to make sure I’m getting a completely unbiased opinion when I get fitted. I like to see what shoes are recommended based on how I’m walking or jogging at that time – not based on what the bottoms of my shoes look like from 400+ miles of wear. There’s one shop that knows exactly what I wear so that makes it a bit harder to get an unbiased opinion, but I feel like I’m in great hands at that store because they know and care about their customers.
Running with Orthotics or Insoles
Sometimes all the strength work, myofascial release, the right footwear, and stretching still isn’t enough. When that happens, it’s time to reevaluate. Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I in pain or am I just tired?
- Should I seek advice or treatment from a healthcare professional?
- Can my condition or issue be managed at home?
If you’ve determined you’re not in pain or injured and that you can manage your condition on your own, your next step may be to consider the use of insoles. Insoles are a relatively inexpensive tool that can help your feet feel happy and healthy.
You can use insoles in a variety of ways. You can run in them or use them for walking activities only. Or you can rejuvenate a retired pair of running shoes so you can keep wearing them for “every day” activities.
If you’re seeking help for a biomechanical issue or are suffering some type of injury, it’s best to head to a podiatrist to get fitted for a custom orthotic. You can buy various orthotic friendly shoes online if needed. If you’re just looking for a little additional support or to change the way a pair of shoes feel, you might want to consider an insole you can buy at the running store.
To properly adjust to your new insoles, slowly introduce the insole to your running program. This means a few minutes at a time for each run, slowly building your way up to wearing them for the duration. Think 5 minutes the first week, 8 minutes the following week, 10 minutes – and so on and so forth.
Sometimes my retired shoes don’t even look worn, but my running mileage suggests otherwise. When they’re retired from running, I usually end up keeping them and wearing them as my “around town” shoes. You know — to the grocery, preschool pickup, to walk the dogs. But they don’t always feel so good. Which makes sense since they’re well past their prime.
I had recently retired a pair of my beloved shoes when I received insoles from Zelus. I was so happy and popped them into my shoes right away.
Rejuvenating Retired Shoes
The first pair I tried, called the Strideus, is great. They’re responsive and have very little added anything. They’re no frills and flat. This is important to me because I don’t want my feet to feel forced into an unnatural position. After putting hundreds of miles on my legs already in 2017, I really like the stress-reducing design. I’ve worn these in my retired running shoes and my feet have been very happy.
The second pair, called the Posuedus, is nice, too. The Posuedus insoles offer a tiny little bit of arch support. I like them on the days I run far and my feet are fatigued. Having a little extra support under my arch is nice. I don’t wear them too often, though, because my feet don’t necessarily need the arch support and I don’t want to mess with my biomechanics. If you need added arch support or wear a stability shoe, these insoles definitely fit the bill.
What stands out to me most with Zelus insoles is the quality and technology of manufacturing. Zelus insoles use SmartCells, which is the anti-fatigue cushioning used on playgrounds, workplaces, and even in homes. It’s durable and feels great. The arch in the Posuedus is firm but not hard, stiff plastic. The footbed of both pairs is soft and supple.
Zelus makes a variety of insoles – everything from full length for athletic shoes and skates to ¾ length for dress shoes and boots (for men and women).
You can learn more about Zelus insoles here.
By maintaining a strength training regimen and actively working on foot and ankle stability, along with stretching and myofascial release, most runners should be in a good position to continue running for a long time. Should you feel the need to add a little something to your footwear, I would recommend giving Zelus insoles a try. They’re comfortable, affordable, and easy to insert and remove from shoes.
Interested in grabbing a pair of insoles of your own? Great news! I’m giving away one pair of Zelus insoles to one lucky winner on Instagram! Hop on over there to learn more about the giveaway and enter for your chance to win!
Have you worn insoles before?
Tell the truth – do you work on strength training for your feet and ankles?
Also linking up with Wild Workout Wednesdays.
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