Perfect your stride (and your workout) by fixing this common issue that can cause imbalances and pain throughout your body.
Foot issues plague even the fittest and strongest athletes, and they can surely put a damper on your workout. Often, pain or discomfort can be caused by improper foot alignment—how your foot hits the ground when you walk, run, or land during HIIT or plyo moves. (And sorry to say, but your body's imbalances likely don't stop there. Here's how to diagnose and fix six common imbalances in the body.)
But changing how you've been on your feet, for, oh, you know, your entire life isn't exactly simple. While making conscious changes to your stride, trying physical therapy, or even slipping custom orthotics into the insoles of your shoes might help, it's not a surefire cure. But now, one sneaker company is out to prevent chronic joint and back pain in an easier and chicer way. Align, Nurse Mate's new collection of trendy corrective sneakers, aims to help you fix your foot alignment issues, such as flat feet, pigeon toes, and bad posture, in order to stop recurring soreness and actually improve your athletic performance. These of-the-moment white kicks ($90) are actually orthotics (without the granny bulkiness or crazy price tag), and no one would ever know the new sneaker addition to your wardrobe has this secret health benefit.
Still skeptical about swapping your flat, unsupportive kicks for posture-perfecting orthotic sneakers? We tapped Dorothy Kurtz Phelan, M.D., a podiatric physician and surgeon, who says that "wearing a supportive shoe at a young age can prevent the compensatory stresses that can affect the foot as well as the whole body over time." This prevents unnecessary stress on the knee and hip joints, spine, head, and neck, she says.
And just because you aren't in debilitating pain now doesn't mean you can just ignore your misalignment until something bad happens. "Correcting foot alignment is crucial because it maintains overall postural support for the entire skeletal system," says Dr. Kurtz Phelan. Improper alignment of the foot joints will have you compensating to one side or the other, which can cause a slew of issues that can transfer up to the entire body, she says. Over time, this can cause premature wear and tear of large joints, and the even need for surgery or a joint replacement. "Similar to a building's foundation, if it is not properly supported at its base, the remaining structure will fatigue and crumble due to abnormal stresses," she warns.
Need another excuse to rock these shoes with cutoffs all summer? Apparently, exercise will become easier. "Correct alignment assures the most energy-efficient athletic performance because the body's joints and muscles are not compensating for improper positioning of the foot bones. Proper alignment decreases stress to joint surfaces, allows the muscles to function without being overworked, and improves overall performance," she says. So from improving your running form to just getting around with not-so-creaky joints, there's more than one reason to consider shoes that work for your body, not against it.