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!

– Dr. Ray McClanahan, DPM

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

Damian Stoy- Correct Toes Sponsored Runner

Correct Toes has recently started sponsoring Damian Stoy, an ultramarathon runner.  We wanted to congratulate both Damian and his girlfriend, Lindsey, on a great run at the Spokane River Run a few weeks- see what they had to say about the race and Correct Toes below!


The Spokane River Run race went well.  I finished in 5th place in the 50k, 10 minutes faster than my two previous times.  My girlfriend Lindsey Hintz won the 25k and almost beat all the men.  She rocked it!

Lindsey says, “My feet feel much stronger and aligned because of Correct Toes. They are definitely helping my running performance.

For me, my feet don’t ever get sore even after ultramarathon races because I use Correct Toes.  My feet are stronger and more flexible.  We both love them!


Meet Running Wild

Running Wild
Running Wild
is a fantastic shoe store in Pensacola, FL that carries Correct Toes. We recently reached out to our friends at Running Wild to see how their customers are responding to Correct Toes. What follows is our Q&A with Running Wild:

CT: What are some of the most common foot complaints you hear from customers?

RW: Plantar Fasciitis is definitely #1. But most often customers just complain of heel and/or arch pain rather than identifying their condition as PF. Others tend to be: pain in their big toe area from a bunion or burning/pain in one of several of their metatarsals.

CT: What are customers’ reactions to Correct Toes once they see a visual demonstration of how it works?

RW: We have yet to have someone not buy them once we put them on a customers feet. It’s amazing when they try on the Correct Toes they say: “Wow I’ve never had anything on feet feel this good.”

CT: What are some of the most common questions you receive about Correct Toes from your customers?

RW: Usually before a customer tries them on, they ask about comfort, but as soon as they try them on they ask if they can buy them.

CT: What are the advantages of offering a product to your customers that addresses so many foot and toe ailments?

RW: Well the advantage is that the Correct Toes are seemingly so simple and non-invasive. The response that we’ve had is overwhelming. We started carrying them just a few weeks ago and we’re ready to place our third re-order.

CT: Can you share with us your personal experience with Correct Toes and how this device has helped you or people you know?

RW: As soon as we received our first order I snagged a pair and have not taken them off. OK, maybe a few times. They have definitely made my feet feel more stable and running more comfortable. I wanted a pair for my 11 year old daughter because she has a slight bunion on one foot, but we sold out of her size the second day after we received our order. I finally got her size in and once I put the Correct Toes on her feet, she had instant relief. She’d previously complained of her toes cramping and arch pain, but not any longer.

Thanks, Running Wild, for sharing your experience and for helping Pensacola’s runners to… run wild!

Dr. Sanatan Golden’s New Practice

Dr Sanatan GoldenAfter three great years practicing physical therapy at Therapeutic Associates-Downtown Portland, Dr. Golden has decided to become an independent practitioner. An expert and instructor in the field of functional natural foot health, his innovative practice is now in the heart of Downtown Portland, at: Optimal Results Physical Therapy.

Sanatan (as most of his patients call him) is very excited about his new venture, which will allow him to not only give more time and attention to each of his patients, but also spend more time with his young family. Over a long working relationship with Dr. Ray McClanahan, Sanatan has developed many complementary treatments to help accelerate the process of healing lower extremity injuries, including:

  • Total body evaluation and assessment to find root-causes of pain and treatment.
  • Building you a personalized, and laser-targeted, home exercise program to address your specific needs
  • Targeted manual therapy:  A hands-on method of restoring proper motion and function.
  • The Astym System: A manual treatment the stimulates the body’s own healing response.
  • Real-time running technique video analysis and specific training drills to immediately improve technique.
  • RESTORE: The natural foot function restoration program.
  • Full access to the only AlterG Antigravity Treadmill in Portland, outside of OHSU. Click the link to see an amazing short video of one of the most revolutionary pieces of rehab equipment around. From the Olympic track stars, the Portland Timbers, to weekend warrior trying to run their first half-marathon, to a patient the day after a hip replacement, the AlterG can help folks get back on their feet sooner, and go for longer, than ever before.

Special Offer For Correct Toes Newsletter Recipients: As a token of appreciation for his ongoing partnership with Dr. McClanahan and Northwest Foot & Ankle, Dr. Golden would like to extend the offer for a complimentary injury examination and consultation or AlterG trial for all those looking accelerate their healing process. Between now and December 1st, contact Optimal Results and mention the Correct Toes Newsletter to get your complimentary appointment.

Optimal Results Physical Therapy
Portland, Oregon
Phone: 503-294-7463
Fax: 503-294-7405
Email: sanatan@optimalresultspt.com

If you would like to see Dr. Golden’s Specialties and Professional Profile, click here.
If you would like to read more about Dr. Golden’s practice and relationship with Dr. McClanahan, click here to read Natural Feet Unite!

Transitioning From Conventional to Minimalist Shoes

It's important to transition to minimalist shoes slowly, over time.Many people are aware that a transition period is required when switching from conventional, PECH-style (Pronation control Elevated Cushioned Heel) shoes to minimalist shoes. In fact, this is one of the most common topics we hear about from patients and customers. Most people want to know the proper protocol for transitioning to foot-healthy footwear—shoes, boots, or sandals that are widest at the ends of the toes, have flexible soles, and possess no heel elevation or toe spring. Though every individual is different and has unique factors or circumstances to consider, we’ve come up with eight general suggestions to heed that are important for everyone making this transition. And here they are:

1. Take a Slow, Progressive Approach

It’s perfectly normal to be excited about this new approach to foot health and function. After all, countless people have already benefited from true minimalist shoes and natural foot health approaches. But it is possible to be overzealous in the adoption of this new footwear, and failing to transition slowly from conventional-style shoes to minimalist shoes might lead to problems.

Consider wearing your new minimalist shoes for a very short period at first, such as 30 minutes per day, and then gradually increasing wear time by 30 minutes per day as your feet and body adapt to the changes. If you’re a runner, consider wearing your conventional shoes for the first part of your run, then switching to your minimalist shoes toward the end. As your feet and toes get stronger, you can begin wearing your minimalist shoes for longer periods during your run, eventually phasing out entirely your conventional running shoes.

2. Proceed in a Stepwise Fashion

Many people benefit from a stepwise approach to minimalist shoes that involves a gradual transition from a built-up conventional shoe to a transitional type of shoe to a true minimalist shoe. There are two main considerations as it concerns this stepwise approach: the sole of the foot and the Achilles tendon.

The sole of the foot is extremely sensitive (which is great for sensing the ground and making appropriate micro-adjustments during gait). But after a lifetime of wearing thick-soled shoes, the sole of the foot (skin, muscles, nerves) is not properly adapted to the ground, and being barefoot or using thin-soled shoes can be uncomfortable. The best way to build up your foot’s sole is to start with thicker-soled footwear, such as Altras and Lunas, and then move to thinner-soled options over time. Note that your thicker-soled footwear selection should still possess all the other foot-healthy characteristics that we recommend, specifically, a flat platform (no heel elevation, no toe spring, no arch-propping inserts), a wide toe box (widest at the ends of the toes), flexibility, and light weight.

Having worn conventional shoes with heel elevation for years (decades, in many cases), the Achilles tendon often becomes contracted, or shortened (sometimes up to three-quarters of an inch!). A shortened Achilles tendon will return to its normal length after conventional footwear is abandoned, but this process takes time. Heat, ice, physical therapy modalities, and warming or cooling gels can help with this transition and rehabilitation. Shifting from a shoe with heel elevation to a “zero drop” shoe can place a tremendous amount of strain on your Achilles tendon, and overdoing it, especially at first, can cause damage and pain in this structure. Again, a slow, stepwise shift to transitional footwear (e.g., Altra shoes, Luna sandals, etc.) can make the leap to ultra-minimalist shoes (e.g., Lems Primal 2 shoes, Vibram FiveFingers shoes, Xero Shoes, etc.) a much lower risk.

3. Allow Time for Adjustments to Occur

The changes and deformities that happen in feet and toes exposed to conventional footwear take many years to occur. It’s no surprise, then, that positive, healthy changes and true foot and toe rehabilitation will also take some time to occur. Some people who transition to minimalist shoes do not allow enough time for the soles and muscles (in the feet and the rest of the lower body) to strengthen. Transitioning to minimalist shoes will, in most cases, work your foot and lower body in a very new and unique way, leading to initial soreness and fatigue in many before the longer-term strength gains and other favorable adaptations occur. Be patient, monitor your body’s response to this transition, and take it slowly! Changes are afoot.

4. Address Gait Changes

It’s extremely common for gait changes to occur when switching from conventional shoes to minimalist models. Most people who wear conventional shoes are heel-strikers (thick, elevated heels make it almost impossible to be anything else). People who wear minimalist shoes, on the other hand, often first contact the ground with the mid-foot or forefoot—a very different gait pattern that has wide-ranging effects throughout the body. This change in gait pattern tends to happen naturally upon moving to footwear with a completely flat (and thin) support platform. But sometimes there is a lag in gait changes that occurs during this transition, such that some individuals still continue to heel strike even after shifting to minimalist footwear.

Heel striking in minimalist shoes may cause some heel discomfort, as there is no longer the same level of cushioning in place to absorb the shock. Using heel cups (please see the next section for further details about heel cups) can be helpful in reducing or preventing this discomfort. Another helpful approach is to pay a lot of attention to how your feet and body feel during the transition phase. Consider paying extra attention to your feet during this time, and walk in a way that feels right to you (avoid “pushing through the pain” or limping in order to avoid pain). Forcing a forefoot strike is not ideal either. Basically, just feel and listen to your body and avoid distractions (chatting with friends, listening to music, etc.) while you’re walking or running during this transition period.

5. Use Met Pads and Heel Cups, if Necessary

Metatarsal pads are a fairly unobtrusive way to restore muscle or tendon balance in your feet and restore the position of your forefoot fat pad to a place that supports your metatarsal heads in the ball of your foot (a common pain point in many people with foot problems). Metatarsal pads, if placed properly, can also help spread your transverse foot arch, which helps take pressure off the structures that run through the ball of your foot, such as nerves and blood vessels.

Heel cups are another helpful (and unobtrusive) natural foot product that alleviates point tenderness in the heel that may develop in minimalist shoe adopters. This point tenderness can happen early in the transition phase or later on, after you’ve been wearing minimalist shoes for a period of time. Point tenderness in the heel is relatively rare in minimalist shoe adopters, but it can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, lead to abandonment of natural foot health approaches. A simple heel cup is often enough to address this discomfort and keep a person in footwear that lets his or her foot function the way nature intended. Setbacks may happen from time to time, but in most cases, there is a simple solution or tweak possible that can help you stay on the path to natural foot health.

6. Use Correct Toes Toe Spacers

Using Correct Toes is one of the most powerful ways to support the transition from conventional footwear to minimalist shoes. Correct Toes naturally curbs overpronation and enables proper weight distribution. This extremely helpful product also encourages a natural strengthening of the muscles and tendons that act on your feet and toes. Correct Toes toe spacers work well in minimalist shoes with anatomically appropriate toe boxes (i.e., toe boxes that are widest at the ends of the toes, not the ball of the foot as in conventional—and many minimalist—shoes).

7. Add Barefoot Time to Your Regimen

Adding some barefoot time to your foot health and minimalist shoe transition regimen can be extremely helpful in ensuring a smooth (and injury-free) shift. Spending at least some time barefoot, even if only around the house, can help condition the soles of your feet and strengthen your foot and toe muscles, accelerating the foot adaptations that occur with minimalist shoe wearing in a safe and constructive manner. If appropriate, you may also consider walking outdoors in your bare feet, weather permitting, starting with as little as one block.

8. Perform Key Home Care Exercises

Performing certain exercises at home (or work) can help with your transition from conventional to minimalist shoes. The most helpful exercises you can perform include the Toe Extensor Stretch, the Bunion Stretch, and the Ball Rolling Exercise. These exercises, when performed in series, help relax tight muscles and tendons and build foot strength. For the best possible outcome, perform these exercises at least several times each day.


Using true minimalist shoes—shoes that are widest at the ends of the toes, have a flexible sole, and possess a completely flat support platform—offers the possibility of profound and enduring foot health benefits. Like most aspects of health, it’s always best to exercise caution and restraint in transitioning to a new and natural approach. Your feet and body are amazingly adaptable and will indeed strengthen if treated appropriately. But this remarkable adaptation process only works well with time, patience, diligence, and a progressive approach. It is an investment well worth making, as it will pay foot health dividends for an entire lifetime. If you have any questions about any aspect of transitioning from conventional shoes to minimalist footwear, please consider meeting with your natural healthcare provider. And now: onward, to excellent foot health!

About the Authors:

Dr. Robyn Hughes is a naturopathic physician; the Director of Medical Education for Correct Toes; a foot health educator in Asheville, North Carolina; and the co-founder of NaturalFootgear.com. She is an avid cyclist, trail runner, and yoga student.

Dr. Ray McClanahan is a sports podiatrist; the founder and physician of Northwest Foot & Ankle in Portland, Oregon; and inventor of Correct Toes. He’s a former elite cross-country racer and regular participant in various running events throughout the Pacific Northwest.

It’s National Yoga Month!

Correct Toes and NWFA would like to acknowledge the contribution of yoga teachers to our society. We’d also like to acknowledge yoga students, who have been quick to embrace Correct Toes and natural foot health principles.

Correct Toes’ own Liesa Steiner is our in-house Certified Yoga Instructor, and we’d like to thank Liesa for her dedication to yoga as both a health tool and way of life (and for sharing her expertise with us!).

Correct Toes use is very complementary to a yoga practice. We encourage any yoga practitioner reading this newsletter to submit a testimonial or story about Correct Toes and how it has helped your practice. Post your comments below!

Meet Jay Dicharry, PT.

Jay works as a physical therapist at Rebound PT in Bend, Oregon. He is a well-known author who has penned the books Anatomy for Runners (2012) and Run Like an Athlete (2013). We recently asked Jay a few questions. Here are his responses:

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your physical therapy practice.
I’m a physical therapist, researcher, author, and coach. I guess I come at injury prevention, treatment, and performance training at a bit different perspective than a lot of others. My years of working in the UVA Motion Analysis Lab, and my current REP Biomechanics Lab @ Rebound Physical Therapy in Bend, have really taught me to stop looking at symptoms, and starting identifying and fixing problems. Sometimes these problems require improving mobility, sometime they require improving stability, and sometimes they require improving strength and power. And it’s quite typical that the lines are blurred between “patients” and “optimizing athletes.” If you really understand the biomechanics of the sports they play, and keep your focus revolving on the end goal – which is always helping athletes achieve their goals in sport – you harness their motivation and combine it with cutting edge intervention to produce the best results.

How were you introduced to Correct Toes?
From Dr. Ray himself – he presented them at a conference I was a part of years ago. I was intrigued…..

How do you use Correct Toes in your practice?
In my experience, Correct Toes serve 2 critical roles. When they are worn, they improve the alignment of the toes and directly improve the individual’s dynamic stability. This produces a better training environment to work on closed chain stability and better dynamic stability in gait. But the great thing about Correct Toes is that they also produce benefits when you aren’t wearing them. Since they “cue” your foot to work better when wearing them, and you take thousands of steps daily, they help you “learn,” or even “train” your foot to work better over time.

What results have you seen in your clients using Correct Toes? Which types of people have benefited the most?
Improved recruitment of the muscles in the foot, improved foot strength, and improved passive mobilization of the plantar fascia. In short – a mobile and strong foot just works better.

What feedback have you received from your clients about the natural foot health approach?
Most patients say the same thing when they put [Correct Toes] on and stand on one leg – “wow – I feel 2x’s as stable”  – better alignment improves foot control.

An increasing number of healthcare professionals, fitness educators, and coaches/trainers throughout the world are incorporating Correct Toes into their practices. Do you see a role for Correct Toes and and its associated natural foot health principles in running, athletics, coaching, and physical therapy?
Yes – you train your heart and lungs, you train your strength in the weight room……why do so many folks forget about their feet? It’s your foundation! Train your feet! If people paid more attention to building a better athlete from the ground up, they’d spend a whole lot more time doing what they love.

Please feel free to share a client or personal testimonial, or a client’s story about recovery from a foot problem.
To be 100% honest – I lost count. I use [Correct Toes] a ton – from folks just out of a period of immobilization for an acute injury to tweaking that last bit of performance. They are a very unique product.

Thank you, Jay, for sharing your experience, and for helping keep Central Oregon’s athletes pain-free and strong!

Meet “The Emperor’s New Shoes”

ImageThe Emperor’s New Shoes is a UK-based natural running store that sells shoes and accessories (including Correct Toes) and offers advice and coaching to enable people to run as nature intended.

We recently had the chance to interview the owners of The Emperor’s New Shoes, Sam Murphy and Jeff Pyrah. Here’s our conversation:

Please tell us a bit about yourselves and The Emperor’s New Shoes.
We have both been avid runners for decades – we fell in love with barefoot running and minimalist shoes a few years back, but quickly realised that they were very hard to come by outside of London. People had heard of them, but not seen them or tried them. So we set up the Emperor’s New Shoes as an online and mobile store. We go to races and events to talk to runners about the benefits of natural footwear, and give them an opportunity to actually feel these shoes on their feet. All the shoes we sell fulfill certain criteria – a wide toe box, lightweight, flexible, and low or no heel-toe drop. We only sell shoes that we have personally wear-tested and liked, along with a select range of accessories that help people maximize their performance, such as nutritional products and, of course, Correct Toes!

How were you introduced to Correct Toes?
Sam found Correct Toes whilst researching plantar fasciitis, which she was suffering from for over a year. They immediately struck a chord – ‘it was as if I’d found a product that I’d already invented in my mind!’ she says. She ordered a pair and had such good results from using them that when we set the shop up, approaching NW Foot & Ankle to stock them was an obvious step.

What results have you seen in your clients and customers using Correct Toes? Which types of people have benefited the most?
The majority of our clients have been barefoot runners and other ‘barefoot living’ enthusiasts – mostly those with injuries or foot problems which are hampering their progress. Often, they’ve tried all the usual channels – they’ve had cortisone injections, or tried orthotics, for example – without success so they’ve been searching for an alternative solution and have become interested in natural foot health. Many customers who have purchased a pair have come back to us to buy a second pair for a partner or friend. We’ve also had pilates instructors, personal trainers and yoga teachers receive the product really well and recommend it to their clients. Here is some customer feedback:

‘Correct Toes have made a real difference to the health of my feet. I wear them every day for pretty much everything. I’m especially impressed by how comfortable they are for running.  I recently completed the annual Man versus Horse marathon wearing a pair.  Despite poor conditions – high water and deep mud – I hardly noticed them.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.’  

‘I bought Correct Toes because of bilateral plantar fasciitis. It’s been a couple of months since buying them, and my condition has improved. I am not in pain anymore, and can walk about as much as I want. I have not yet returned to running – I will give it a couple more months and then start running barefoot.’

‘I purchased Correct Toes for a possible hallux valgus and have found them to be very successful in treating my ailment.  I have also been using Vibram Fivefingers, massage and exercises.’

An increasing number healthcare professionals, fitness educators, and coaches/trainers throughout the world are incorporating Correct Toes into their practices. Do you see a role for Correct Toes and and its associated natural foot health principles in running, athletics, and coaching?
We definitely believe they have a role to play in helping athletes improve their foot health – especially mobility and strength, which is often lacking in those who wear ‘traditional trainers’ all the time. They can also mark the end of foot pain/problems for runners – including neuromas and plantar fasciitis – allowing them to train more consistently and subsequently achieve better results. People are always interested when Sam takes off her trainers and has Correct Toes on! We think there is scope for so many more runners to benefit – the challenge is getting them to switch into better footwear, that will enable them to accommodate CTs.

Thank you, Sam & Jeff, for sharing your experience, and for helping keep our friends ‘over the pond’ running strong and pain-free!

A Powerful Testimonial

RS Testimonial 6-13Our own Rebecca Shapiro, an avid athlete, contributed this powerful testimonial after one full year of using Correct Toes, performing stretches, and wearing healthy footwear. She describes her journey toward foot health, illustrating both the benefits and the challenges. Here’s Rebecca’s story:

My feet are no strangers to tight, rigid, conventional footwear. From my earliest memories, I spent my winters in alpine ski boots and my summers in narrow cycling shoes or tapered English riding boots. In elementary school, I remember noticing that my feet were different. My big toes bent toward my second toes, dramatically increasing over time on my left foot. I saw my first podiatrist and started wearing orthotics at the age of 11. While correcting how I moved, the orthotics did not fix my bunion, and they left my feet weak and dependent on support. By the age of 14, I started noticing that I no longer had full sensation in the ends of my toes, especially my left big toe. I had never really thought about this lack of sensation being a problem and blamed the issue on too many cold winter training camps up at Mt. Hood.

While I considered myself to be a competitive athlete in many sports, I was also very clumsy. I tripped and fell frequently, and I could rarely complete any balance or stability exercises. I never would have believed it if someone had told me that my bunion, my neuropathy, and my balance issues were related. I would have laughed at them had they said these problems were caused by my footwear. And I would have been incredulous if they had said that all three problems could be fixed by wearing a piece of silicone between my toes.
Skip ahead to present day, and here I am, one year into my transition to Correct Toes and minimalist footwear. I wear Correct Toes 40-50 hours a week, and I’ve transitioned to new footwear across the board, including casual, dress, and athletic shoes. The results of the last year have been so unexpected. Not only has my bunion visibly reduced, but I now have full sensation back in my toes. Visually, my forth and fifth toes no longer rotate inward as drastically. I stand taller, as my arches no longer collapse and pronate as I move. Best of all, I don’t trip anymore! The improvements I feel in my body are now far more important to me, compared to how my feet aesthetically look.
The positive changes I’ve experienced over the last year haven’t been without discomfort or setbacks. This treatment path is not easy: it requires a huge commitment, dedication, and most of all, patience. I think it’s important to realize that changing to minimalist, barefoot-like footwear is part of a lifestyle, and that Correct Toes do not provide a quick fix. Change comes slowly, and it’s not comfortable at all times.  During my transition to Correct Toes and minimalist footwear I experienced the usual foot and calf soreness. I also had a short bout with Achilles tendonitis six months in, and now I’m currently rehabbing a knee tracking issue.  

Despite the bumps along the way, I would never go back. Over the coming years, I expect to continue seeing visual improvements in my feet and physical improvement in my body. 

This journey is so far from being over.

Rebecca also speaks in this video, which recounts her story and demonstrates the effectiveness of Correct Toes and healthy footwear practices in restoring toe alignment.

Are You Ready to Train?

Are_You_Ready_to_Train_Here’s a common scenario some of you may find yourself in this spring: It’s been a few months since you last pulled on your athletic shoes and you’ve been wearing cold weather footwear that, though it keeps your feet and toes warm, is kind of constricting. There is a big annual walking or running event coming up in the not-too-distant future that you always participate in, or you’ve found a new event or long hike that you’re just dying to try. But you’ve got a nagging foot problem that started over the winter and you’re wondering if you can begin your training. If this is the situation you find yourself in, this article is for you!

The question at the heart of this discussion is this: “When is it appropriate for me to begin training in earnest for a race, walking event, or multi-day hike if I have a foot problem that is causing me pain or discomfort?” As fellow runners and walkers, we understand the urgency that comes with preparing for a big race or event, and we also understand how frustrating it is to wait out a foot problem before ramping up our training volume and intensity (or even to miss an event due to a foot injury). We’ve been there, and we sympathize with your situation. But trying to train with an existing foot problem is not an appropriate course of action, as it usually ends up compounding your problem and leading to a more deeply entrenched foot issue.

The pain or discomfort associated with plantar fasciosis (commonly mislabeled ‘plantar fasciitis’), interdigital neuromas, bunions, and other foot problems is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong and needs to be corrected. Perhaps it’s an impediment to natural foot health that needs to be removed (think conventional footwear) or a longstanding foot or lower extremity issue that was never properly addressed. Whatever the issue, it’s important that it gets resolved before you start any serious weight-bearing exercise routine. We know this may sound unappealing, but don’t despair, as there is every reason to believe that your foot issue can be helped in a timely manner, if you allow your foot to function the way nature intended.

The answer to most common foot problems, including the ones that keep you from participating in the activities you love, is elegantly simple and universally applicable. The first step in restoring natural foot health is understanding what shoe features deform your true foot shape and alter the dynamics of your feet and toes. Heel elevation, toe spring, toe box taper, and rigid soles are all injurious design features found in most conventional footwear. Using shoes that are flat from heel to toe, flexible in the sole, and widest at the ends of your toes allows your feet and toes the freedom to act as nature planned. Many people also benefit from using our toe-spacing device, Correct Toes, to realign their toes to the splayed position commonly seen in the healthiest feet in the world—the feet of barefoot or unshod populations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Many patients find that their foot pain or problem dissipates once the barriers to natural foot health are removed and proper toe alignment is restored. How quickly this occurs depends on numerous factors, however, including the tissue types involved (e.g., nerve, muscle, tendon, ligament, etc), the mobility of the involved tissues or structures, and how long you’ve been experiencing the problem. Most people will experience at least some immediate relief from performing these simple actions, with additional beneficial results occurring over several weeks, with good compliance.

Some light training may be appropriate during this initial recovery phase, as long as your foot pain or discomfort is not made worse with weight-bearing activity or does not alter your gait. Compensating for a foot injury by changing your gait can lead to problems in other parts of your body and further downtime away from your passion. If you are limping, have severe pain, or your pain increases as you walk or run, you should avoid walking, running, and hiking. Consider getting on your bike or into the pool for your workout instead.

So, are you ready to train? Regardless of your current situation (free of foot pain or currently experiencing foot problems) we encourage you to carefully consider your footwear and how it can help or hinder natural foot health. For more information about how you can restore foot health and anatomy to treat and prevent common foot health problems, we encourage you to meet with a naturally minded podiatrist or other foot care expert. You can also visit the Northwest Foot & Ankle and Correct Toes websites, which contain plenty of helpful information about how best to achieve lasting foot and toe health.

Enjoy the spring, and happy training!

Robyn Hughes, N.D. & Ray McClanahan, D.P.M.

About the Authors:

Dr. Robyn Hughes is naturopathic physician; the Director of Medical Education for Correct Toes; a foot health educator in Asheville, North Carolina; and the co-founder of NaturalFootgear.com. She is an avid cyclist, trail runner, and yoga student.

Dr. Ray McClanahan is a sports podiatrist; the founder and physician of Northwest Foot & Ankle in Portland, Oregon; and inventor of Correct Toes. He’s a former elite cross-country racer and regular participant in various running events throughout the Pacific Northwest.