Natural Foot Health

Feet. Arguably the most important part of a runner’s body. Feet allow us to stand upright and give us the balance required to walk and run. As runner’s our greatest expenses revolve around our feet, literally and figuratively. We may spend hundreds of dollars a year on good running shoes and little on anything else.

As the foundation of our bodies, naturally feet should be given the upmost care. However, little is done to strengthen our feet. Many injuries above the feet can be avoided with proper foot care.

Today on the Running for Real podcast we interviewed Ray McClanahan. An impressive runner himself, with a 5K PR under fourteen minutes, Ray understands the running world. Dr. McClanahan studied podiatry and practiced as a foot surgeon for a number of years before considering other branches of medicine. His experience as a runner and a surgeon prepared him to research the world of natural foot health. Today he helps thousands recover from foot injuries in ways that are long-lasting and natural.

Getting to the Root Cause

Dr. McClanahan practiced what is termed allopathic medicine during the formative years of his career. Allopathic medicine, often referred to as modern or Western Medicine, focuses on treating symptoms. It is valuable in relieving pain and quickly addressing particular injuries. However, allopathy rarely looks to the root cause of diseases and injuries. Dr. McClanahan realized this as many of his patients returned with reoccurring injuries after successful surgeries.

On the other hand, osteopathy or naturopathy are branches of medicine that focus on a holistic and preventative approach. Finding the root cause is the entire purpose. Then, changing diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits work to eradicate the injuries or diseases entirely. 

Many injuries, especially when it comes to feet, don’t need surgery. They may not even require a rest from running. Tweaking form, footwear, and adding stretching exercises is often all it takes to produce long-term cures.

What Your Feet are Supposed to Look Like

When you are born, your feet look exactly as they should. Take a look at any newborn’s foot and you will see that the toes are the widest part of the foot. Over the years, humans cram their feet into fashionable shoes that shape the foot into an unnatural state. Try taking out your shoe insole and placing your foot on top. You will see that your foot extends past the insole.

Since your feet contain one-fourth of your body’s bones, they are extremely malleable. So much so that as toddler’s feet transform when they begin to wear popular shoes, it is painless. Pain caused by deformed feet usually takes years to emerge. But when it does, it is obvious that the shape of the foot is the cause.

Humans that have gone without confining or “shoe-shaped” shoes, have perfectly natural-shaped feet. Societies in Africa that don’t wear shoes, or societies Asian countries that only wear sandals, have baby-shaped feet. These populations are free from many of the conditions that the Western world deals with such as hammertoe, bunions, ingrown toenails, arthritis and more.

“We Want You to Heal Yourself”

The best things about preventative foot care and naturopathy are that they are nonintrusive, inexpensive, and autonomous. “We want you to heal yourself,” says Dr. McClanahan, “Most people don’t need aggressive stuff.” Simply changing the type of shoes you wear, pairs that allow your toes to fully extend, can make a world of a difference. 

Now is the Best Time 

No matter your age, now is the best time to have better foot health. The sooner you begin, the easier it is for your foot to morph back to the shape it naturally wants to be in. If you are uncomfortable wearing unfashionable shoes in the work place, start by at least wearing a better running shoe and taking your shoes off at home. Even if you don’t throw out all your old shoes, reducing the amount of time you live in “shoe-shaped” shoes will have a positive effect on your foot health. Decide to put your foot health first and it will reward you with less injury in the future.


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North West Foot and Ankle

Mark Cucuzella

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