When it comes to health and fitness, being able to move correctly is an absolutely integral component. Our bodies are designed to move freely, effectively and efficiently with all joints and muscles interrelated through the amazing Human Movement System (HMS). One of the big topics at the moment is about footwear and what is actually best for us. The discussion is a lot of the time about big-soled supportive running shoes versus minimalist or barefoot shoes. The fact is, as humans, we are designed to not need to wear shoes… the skeletal and neuromuscular structure of the feet, ankle and the entire body, is purpose-built to move. However, our feet have always needed protection from sharp objects, such as stones, to prevent injury.

The first modern-day shoe was manufactured about 250 years ago, with the first structurally supportive shoe only arriving in the 1980s. What did we ever do before this? The development of big-soled supportive shoes is an interesting one, but there are more pressing issues when it comes to footwear.

Anyone who constantly wears footwear that does not allow their feet to function properly, or creates weakness of the musculature of the feet is putting the rest of their body at risk of injury. The human movement system functions in an interdependent and interrelated structure. If one part of the system is out of alignment, it will cause other parts to compensate and alter their alignment. I see a lot of people running, and even walking, with serious movement malfunctions. A lot of back pain can be the actual result of poor foot function.

Asia’s favourite, the flip-flop, is not the best footwear when it comes to promoting good posture. A recent study found that people wearing flip-flops take shorter steps and shuffle their feet. These simple and minor changes completely alter the natural gait and can trigger problems and pain throughout the body as it causes joints to misalign. This can cause problems or pain within the hips and lower and upper spine.

For women, the high heel is a fashion icon. However, from a functional and postural point of view, there is nothing worse.

High heels push the centre of mass forward meaning the lower back has to arch, which can cause tightness, stiffness and pain. At only three inches, heels will increase the pressure on the balls of the feet by 76 percent causing all sort of additional foot and back problems. The big toe is also pushed into the other toes creating a bunion, or boney growth, at the joint of the big toe. Another study found that pressure on the knee joint increased by 26 percent, which will cause the wearer to develop quadriceps dominance and weaken the glutes.

Treat yourself to foot massages and be conscious of how you stand. Your feet can be the key to good posture and movement! Don’t abuse them by wearing bad footwear.

Phil is a health practitioner and expert in body transformation. His services are available at Star Fitness (starfitnesssaigon.com), online or at your home. Contact him through his website phil-kelly.com or facebook.com/BodyExpertSystemsVietnam.