How Stiff Shoes May Weaken the Ankle


What you wear on your feet can either suppress
or stimulate growth in functional strength of the foot-ankle complex. New research is momenting the fact that the
more you use restrictive, narrow, stiff footwear that have an unerganomical shape that completely
goes against the natural anatomy of the foot, the more the foot-ankle complex is actually
prevented from being used the way that it should, the more the engaging systems in the
foot-ankle complex are turned off; the more the feet as well as the bones of the ankle-joint
become abnormally-shaped and fragile. These functional and structural deficits in
the foot-ankle complex can change the way the feet as well as the lower legs respond
to walking, running or hiking, especially long miles, and may project more stress on
the ankle-joint of which an ankle injury can certainly derive from. A proof-of-concept of this came from one interesting
line of research, which is linked below video in the description box, research out of the
University of Bologna (Boh-loan-ya) Italy, revealed that certain forms of footwear, namely
restrictive, narrow, stiff shoes not only significantly alters the structure of the
foot’s bones, but also significantly alters the structure of the ankle bones in ways that
cause the ankle-joint to continue to be more vulnerable to injury. Not to mention, more structural and functional
problems will build with more long-term dependency on such footwear. The researchers looked at the talus bone which
is a central bone between the foot and the lower leg; it’s essentially the main bone
that connects the foot to the leg. More specifically, the talus bone sits at
the centre of the ankle and pretty much makes up the lower part of the ankle-joint’. The talus bone, in conjunction with the calcaneus,
makes up part of the subtalar joint which a unit essential for balanced footsteps when
walking, especially on uneven grounds. Another important function of the talus bone
is it helps transfer all the weight between the foot and the leg during walking and it
also enables balance, So any injury to this bone may impair movements and the range of
motion of the foot-ankle complex and may of course compromise balance stability during
walking and even standing. If injured, it also takes a long time for
the talus bone to heal because the bone doesn’t have the best supply of oxygenated blood going
to it. In the study, the researchers created 3D images
of 142 preserved ankle bones, namely the talus bone from various points in history such as
modern groups and prehistoric groups. The ankle bones from the modern groups were
from the 19th and 20th century and included shoe-wearing dwellers in New York and industrial
workers from Bologna, Italy who favoured sturdier leather boots. The prehistoric group included sandal-wearing
Nguni farmers in South Africa as well as barefoot hunter-gatherers from the Stone Age. The researchers discovered that the ankle
bones of the Stone Age barefoot hunter-gatherers were significantly shorter, flexible and more
robust due to walking long distances barefoot on uneven terrain as compared with the ankle
bones of the modern city groups of which the researchers found that the modern city groups
had a significantly long, warped and less robust talus bone with less bone mass due
to repetitive use of constructive footwear and they didn’t walk nearly as much as the
Stone Age barefoot hunter-gatherers. The researchers underscored that the irregular
shape of the talus bone in the modern city groups indicated a loss of flexibility because
the narrow-shaped and rigidity or inflexibility of most modern shoes greatly restricts the
space of which the foot can expand, flex and move in general. So, these findings add really nothing overly
new to what we already know about the less your feet work independently, the more the
feet atrophy and that most conventional footwear typically have an unergonomic shape and are
stiff; they don’t really move well with the foot and this is how these shoes keep
the feet in somewhat of an inactive state which can really contribute to deficits in
the foots functional strength, but the biggest takeaway from the study is that such footwear
can make your ankles just as weak as your feet. The findings from the study is a strong revealing
indicator that what you wear on your feet also strongly affects your ankle strength
and ankle bone structure and may cause strength and structural deficits to the talus bone
and more structural problems with the foot-ankle complex may build with more long-term use
on such rigid, restrictive footwear whereby structural problems can change the way the
bones respond to mechanical stress during running. Essentially, when your feet are weak, you’re
more likely to have a weak talus bone as well which isn’t going to make your balance any
better, especially if you’re a runner and definitely a trail runner. Multiple studies during the past decade strongly
supports the idea that you have to do more barefoot walking and running or walking and
running in minimalist shoes to assist you in developing not only functionally stronger
feet, but stronger, more enduring ankle bones whereby increased barefoot activity and therefore
increasing the functional actions of the foot/ankle complex is directly involved in thicken of
the fat pad and increases in muscle volume throughout the foot as well as improved bone
density, especially at the ankle, the talus bone, and increases in barefoot activity is
really going to make you a more resilient runner, especially if you plan on running
in running shoes like the Nike Vaporfly, you can’t have weak feet, therefore weak ankles,
therefore compromised balance control if you plan on running in a shoe, like the Nike Vapor
Fly that has an incredibly thick sole that substantially causes a big distance separation
between your foot and the ground. The elite long distance runners from East
Africa who run in these shoes, also do a lot of strength training barefoot and their down
time being barefoot as well, for obvious reasons. If you plan on running in these types of shoes,
you better have unshakable balance control and the only way you can do that is to increase
barefoot activity first, or spending more time in minimalist shoes to get the results
you want in developing stronger feet and ankles to help give you a built-in level of sturdier
footsteps. So I just wanted to impress upon that not
only do certain types of footwear affect your foot’s functional strength, they can also
weaken your ankles and misshape the ankles bones and in this way, the ankle continues
to be vulnerable to injury, especially in running. I hope you’ve enjoyed this video. If you did, feel free to hit the thumbs up
button as well as the subscribe button if you haven’t already where you will get more
informed on the health benefits of barefoot activity as well as you will learn more on
the hot-button debate for forefoot strike running versus heel-strike running, and of
course you can support Run Forefoot through PayPal as well which is also linked down below
the video in the description box. Thank you so much for listening and watching. Have fun out there on the roads and trails. Bye for now.

2 thoughts on “How Stiff Shoes May Weaken the Ankle”

  1. As a forefoot runner, every time I go for a run I always have my heels be the last to touch the ground. Knock on wood I haven't had too much injuries right after a run.

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