Circulation is an important issue, especially as it pertains to your extremities. Blood flow to the points in your body farthest away from your heart, including your feet and toes, can become compromised for a variety of reasons, including a cold environment. With wintry temperatures and conditions settling in, we thought it would be a good time to discuss the topic of cold feet; specifically, what are the best ways to prevent cold feet and toes in winter climates. We’ll take a look at several key strategies that can help your feet and toes stay toasty warm in the cold conditions you may encounter outside.
Optimizing Foot & Toe Circulation
One of the best ways to prevent cold feet and toes is to optimize or enhance foot circulation (i.e., blood flow). And one of the best ways to accomplish this particular goal is to use Correct Toes. Correct Toes, as explained in greater detail in our article entitled Correct Toes & Circulation: Visualized, enables optimal foot and toe circulation by spreading the toes. This allows more blood to enter and exit the foot, reaching foot and toe tissues—including the very ends of the toes—that may otherwise experience less-than-optimal circulation. And where there is healthy blood flow, there is warmth.
Other Helpful Strategies
In addition to wearing Correct Toes, other strategies to prevent cold feet and toes include wearing wide toe box boots that are thermal insulated, wearing wool toe socks (companies such as Injinji and Toesox offer wool varieties), wearing battery-powered socks, or using a product such as Toe Warmers by Grabber.
Dr. Ray’s Protocol
Correct Toes inventor Dr. Ray McClanahan periodically spends time in the Montana winter wilderness, and he has had good success in preventing cold feet by doing the following: wearing wide, thermal insulated boots, thick wool socks (from Toesox), Correct Toes, battery-powered socks over the Correct Toes/toe socks combo, and Toe Warmers. Dr. Ray states that this combination of footgear keeps his feet and toes pleasantly comfortable, even in single-digit temperatures.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are using an uninsulated winter boot or shoe, we recommend NOT wearing your Correct Toes in freezing cold temperatures. The device itself can get quite cold, and it’s proximity to the toes can cause discomfort. Correct Toes are designed to be used either inside a thermal insulated boot in combination with warm wool socks and/or in reasonably warm temperatures.
West Point, NY. September 2015.
Sports medicine specialists from around the world convened at West Point Military Academy to discuss best practices and what is new in the field of sports medicine.
While some things stayed the same, such as attempting to help our athletes recover without surgery, other things changed substantially when compared to our previous approach to athletic injuries.
A significant example of one such recent change is that we will no longer suggest that pronation is a primary cause of athletic injuries. Rather, pronation is a normal physiological movement that varies from athlete to athlete and should not be treated as a dysfunctional movement. Further, the idea that athletic shoes favorably alter pronation, and thus reduce injury, has been abandoned. This is a huge paradigm shift in the world of sports medicine, and fortunately this shift is supported by the available medical literature that was reviewed.
Another powerful step forward (this pun is intended) is the realization that teaching an athlete how to run better can alter their body mechanics in such a way as to reduce certain types of injuries. Heel striking as the favored method of running has been replaced with the need to get the athlete’s foot under their body, by teaching and focusing on a midfoot strike. Again, thankfully, the medical literature supports this as an injury reducer.
Dr. Mark Cucuzzella gave a great talk on how we all need to play, and that movement is medicine for all of us, for our entire lives. Unfortunately, he had to condense what he ordinarily teaches in a 2-day course into a 30-minute talk. Nevertheless, his wisdom was appreciated.
Golden Harper, designer of Altra footwear, was present and tirelessly taught many sports medicine doctors the merits of natural foot positioning, and the importance of allowing the athlete’s feet to function as nature intended with the least amount of interference coming from the footwear.
Jonathon Beverly, editor of Running Times and Runner’s World magazines, was there to capture it all.
Many relationships were formed, and a renewed passion for helping our athletes was deeply palpable.
Perhaps the highlight, of many high points for me personally, was the invitation to speak to the group next year regarding the natural foot health program we offer at NWFA/Correct Toes. Could it get any better? Yes! Next year’s meeting will be held in Portland, Oregon, and I have been asked to help organize and lead the meeting.
If you are a sport medicine provider, we hope to see you in Portland next year.
Until then, have fun, be well, and don’t forget to play each day, no matter your age!
In Top Photo: Dr. Ana, Dr. Ray McClanahan, Dr. Mark Cucuzzella
In Bottom Photo: Golden Harper (Altra Running Shoes), Dr. Ray McClanahan, Dr. Mark Cucuzzella
Adam Kelly, a researcher currently about to begin work on his PhD in Exercise Physiology at the University of Miami, recently completed the first-ever study of Correct Toes and its effects on balance, specifically dynamic balance—the ability to maintain stability of the center of mass with movement.
Kelly became familiar with the Correct Toes product during his undergraduate education and knew that he would like to potentially study the device once he got to graduate school. His interest in the device along with his knowledge of the prevalence of foot deformities in our society (due to poor footwear choice, design, and fit) provided the motivation for this study and helped Kelly earn his master’s degree.
Read a synopsis of Kelly’s findings, below, or watch the video for a complete presentation of the effects of Correct Toes and minimalist footwear on dynamic balance.
Correct Toes & Balance Study Synopsis:
Study Title: The Influence of a Foot-Toe Orthosis and Minimalist Shoe on Dynamic Balance and Hallux Valgus Angle
Lead Researcher: Adam Kelly, MS, ATC
Study Synopsis: This study sought to examine and compare the effects of a foot-toe orthosis (Correct Toes) and minimalist shoe (Lems Primal 2) on dynamic balance and the angle of the big toe, or hallux valgus angle. Balance alone is defined as the ability to maintain center of mass stability over a support base, whereas dynamic balance is the ability to maintain center of mass stability with movement—a more accurate and relevant measurement for everyday life. The researchers hypothesized that participants receiving the intervention (i.e., Correct Toes with Lems Primal 2 shoes or just Lems Primal 2 shoes alone) would experience improvements in dynamic balance and a reduction in hallux valgus angle. The researchers randomly assigned 65 young, healthy volunteers (aged 21 to 29 years) to one of three distinct groups (the two groups mentioned above and a control group) and then took immediate measurements and follow-up measurements after 4 weeks. What researchers found was that there were significant differences in dynamic balance scores in the follow-up measurements of the Correct Toes/Lems shoes group and the control group and the Lems shoes only group and control group. The effect on dynamic balance was “strong” in the Correct Toes/Lems shoes group and “moderate” in the Lems shoes only group. Researchers found that there were no significant differences in hallux valgus angle between the any of the groups after 4 weeks, though this is likely due to key limitations of the study (e.g., short study duration, young and healthy participants, etc.). This study was the first to show that a toe-spacing device such as Correct Toes and/or a minimalist shoe such as the Lems Primal 2 may cause an increase in dynamic balance (in 4 weeks of wear) in a young, healthy adult population.
Have you ever wondered if Correct Toes can improve foot and toe circulation? Well, wonder no more. We were recently sent the above image (along with many others) by a Correct Toes user, Sergio, in Spain, who used his infrared (IR) camera to capture some very illuminating images. Sergio (@metatarsalia, on Twitter) is a certified building energy auditor.
The above image is a fantastic visual representation of the effect Correct Toes has on foot and toe blood flow. The darker areas represent areas of lower blood flow, while the lighter areas are regions experiencing greater circulation.
Here is a short description from Sergio about his IR images of Correct Toes and the feet:
This picture was taken two days after I bought my Correct Toes. I felt so good, resting better since the first day. On the second day, I decided to see what was happening on my feet wearing Correct Toes, so I put on Correct Toes on right foot and not on left foot. I did normal life, and after 1 hour of wearing [the spacers] I took my IR camera to see what nobody can see: the heat. And then I show, clearly, that right foot, the one with Correct Toes, was warmer than left foot. Blood can go to the end of my toes to warm them.
Sergio notes that IR images offer a much more detailed picture of what’s actually happening in the real world, whether it’s inside a building or the inside the human body. He says:
Visual images are what people see and think that everything is normal, under control, but when I turn on my IR camera they see that not everything is right. People can feel their cold toes, but when they see the IR picture, they make the decision to do something. It is like energy saving—many people don´t act until I show them how energy flows out of the building.
CT: Please tell us a bit about yourself and your store.
GS: I am a 38 year-old father of 2 and my life revolves around 3 main things: my wife Erin (who is an elite runner), my kids Troy and Belle (elementary aged and active), and our store (Running and Natural Movement Specialty). As such, my life is made up of all things running, movement, and health. Natural Strides opened 3 years ago in September 2011 as the first Natural Running Store in the Southeastern United States. That year I quit my job as a Special Education Teacher, which I loved, for something that I knew I would love much more. As a runner who had rewired my gait patterns and was transitioning into minimalist and natural footwear, I found that there were no Atlanta-area running stores who could cater to my needs. Online shopping was time-consuming and frustrating, leading to many ill-fitting shoes and returns. I knew there was a need for a brick & mortar location that could not just give footwear options to natural runners, but actually cater to them specifically, while providing traditional runners with education and another viewpoint to consider. So I took the plunge and it has been awesome.
Our focus as a store is to provide humans of all shapes, sizes, and goals with footwear and education on natural foot health. Ironically, as the owner of a shoe store I make it a point to encourage customers NOT to wear shoes whenever possible. When they need protection or style, we have options that provide that while still allowing for natural foot function. I am very proud to say that we do not and will not put customers in footwear that does not match their inherent foot shape: traditional, pointed-toe shoes have no place here and we are spreading the word about just how much damage can be done to the body by pointed and heel-lifted footwear. All of our shoes are level to the ground, wide in the toe box, light, and flexible. We offer a non-traditional gait analysis, which we do not use to fit people in shoes (that always seemed backward to me), but more to provide insight and our opinion on how they might move more efficiently. Both Erin and I are certified ChiRunning Instructors, and I am also a Certified Personal Trainer with ACSM. Erin is a part of the Altra Endurance Elite team, and is currently in training for the JFK 50 mile this fall. She manages our finances and her accomplishments as a natural and minimalist runner are a huge asset to our store. We also have excellent employees who walk the walk by running and living in natural, minimalist footwear.
CT: What are the most common foot complaints you hear from your customers?
GS: Plantar Fasciitis/Plantar Fasciosis is by far the number one complaint, and I estimate that 30 to 40 percent of people who come into our store for the first time are suffering from it. It is reaching epidemic proportions. With Dr. Ray’s help we have spread the word to thousands that this condition is preventable and treatable by natural means. Many of our customers, young and old alike, suffer from bunions and hammertoes as well. It is fun to work with these people by exposing them to some strengthening exercises and educating them on the natural shape of their foot as it should be. Correct Toes are the perfect complement to that process. We also have had many customers come in with neuromas, and have had several of them return to proudly say that their neuroma has completely disappeared and that they are pain free as a result of their foot-shaped shoes (imagine that), toe socks, and Correct Toes.
CT: What are customer’s initial reaction when they see or experience Correct Toes?
GS: Every customer that is fit for shoes here will see and experience Correct Toes, so we have seen every reaction possible. Most people are at first confused as to what it is, being that it is not something they are accustomed to seeing in running or shoe stores. But with a quick explanation, most get it and are intrigued. Once they wear the product and try on shoes with it on their foot, I would say that 75% of folks are pleased to have learned what their foot should look like and love the feeling of realignment. There are a few (usually women with a fashion mindset) who are not into it and not willing to give it a try at all, but we are happy to at least have “planted the seed” in their mind about natural foot health. We have had people say “No way will I wear that,” and then decide later that they will buy a pair. Most often the reaction is very positive.
CT: What results have you seen in your customers by using a natural foot health approach?
GS: This is what makes our job very satisfying. In our 3 years doing this we have seen so many people come back and report life-changing benefits. It is really cool. Most often people are thrilled that their PF went away or are happy that their neuroma pain is gone, but we also have had a large number of folks see and feel the full body effects of setting their foundation right. Knee pain, hip pain, back pain, postural difficulties—all work their way out of their life when their feet become strong and aligned.
CT: Please feel free to share a customer or personal testimonial about recovery from a foot problem, using Correct Toes.
GS: Here are a couple of testimonials from our customers:
“Want healthy feet? Go talk to these guys; they know their stuff. My wife and I bought 4 pair of Lems minimalist shoes and Correct Toes. After 1 week I had no more plantar pain and started regaining feeling in my toes. This was a problem I have had for some time. My wife also noticed she had no more hip pain and could move her big toe. I am now a believer in the flat zero drop shoe with a big toe box. There isn’t any other shoe I would wear after being in these. I haven’t ran in 10 years but now feel like starting after walking in these shoes. Looking forward to new dress designs in this style in the future.”
“Greg, I recently bought a pair of Lems and a set of toe orthotics (Correct Toes) from your store in Woodstock. I also bought a pair of shoes for my 3 year-old grandson at the same time. He loves them! I just wanted you to know my “hammertoe” condition has improved significantly and my shoes feel wonderful, as do my feet and legs!! I am a very satisfied customer and have already been showing my shoes to all my friends here in Orlando. I am trying to steer them your way […] I will be up at the end of the year to purchase at least one more pair for me and I am bringing my wife to get fitted too!”
Thank you, Greg and Natural Strides, for your commitment to healthy running and optimal foot health!
This month’s featured #AskCorrectToes question comes from @RyanHisner, who asks the following:
Can applying heat to the plantar fascia (in conjunction with proper footwear and Correct Toes) facilitate healing?
Ryan’s follow-up question is:
Since plantar fasciosis is due to insufficient bloodflow, does this mean that you should avoid icing your feet?
Great questions, Ryan! Dr. Ray McClanahan answers these questions in this video: