No one person is the same. Every single one of us is wonderfully and uniquely different in our own right. The way we talk, the way we think, the way we interact with others, and the way we move in general all differ from one person to the next.
And this uniqueness extends to the way we walk, too!
Maybe you have flat feet, while your friend has high arches. Or perhaps you pronate, while your cousin supinates. The bottom line is that how your feet, ankles, and even knees, hips and back align will vary from other people. Such is the beauty of being your own person from head to toe and everywhere else in between.
And anytime we talk about how the muscles, bones, and tissues of your feet and ankles are shaped, how they interact, or how they move with and against one another, we’re talking about biomechanics. It might sound somewhat technical, but it’s easy to understand if you break the word down into its two parts: bio (life) and mechanics (movement).
Simply put, the word “biomechanics” refers to the processes our body uses to perform various movements. You use a remarkable amount of biomechanics each and every day, even when you don’t think about it. For instance, your rib cage expands and contracts so your lungs can collect and expel air.
Likewise, we also use biomechanics whenever we walk. Every footstep you take requires a complex sequence of highly coordinated motions. Does it make sense now why it takes so much trial and error for toddlers to learn this process?
Let’s break this down for you.
Because Walking is More Complex Than You Might Think
First your heel strikes the ground. This is the moment your landing foot – and more specifically, your heel – makes initial contact with the ground. Next, the rest of your foot moves forward, gradually making contact. This motion continues until your center of gravity passes over the top of your foot. In this instance, the foot acts as a shock absorber to safely distribute force loads.
Once your weight has passed over the midfoot, your foot then begins to work as a lever, propelling your body forward as your toes push off the surface. Finally, your whole foot leaves the ground while your other foot begins the same trajectory.
In a nutshell, that is what happens each and every time you take a step. And during every one of these steps, your foot is subjected to force loads that are significantly greater than your bodyweight. In fact, this force load can amount to double your weight while walking, and even more than that when running!
Now, let’s say a part of your foot is in pain (and we certainly hope that is not the case). You will naturally adjust your walking gait to avoid putting weight on it (therefore causing the least amount of pain as possible). You may even be doing this without noticing, and to do so you end up placing unnecessary weight on a different part of your foot.
The problem with this is: The part of the foot taking the extra force load is not accustomed to bearing this much pressure and because of this, conditions like bunions, heel pain, and Morton’s neuroma may arise.
Consider the fact that – even on an average day – you will take thousands of steps, totaling the sum of force load endured by your feet to more than 3 tons a day. It’s no wonder how even a fairly minor variation in structure can lead to a significant problem over time.
But the good news is that we have several treatment options that can help!
How Can We Fix Biomechanical Flaws?
Our starting point in addressing foot and ankle problems that have biomechanical roots is to perform a gait analysis. We will analyze and record how your feet and legs move when you walk and run. We may also use certain tests or have you perform some simple exercises to help zero in on the conditions afflicting your lower limbs.
Maybe we will find that your legs are too straight at impact, or maybe you have a tendency to over-stride, or perhaps your knees bend too far in or out as you move – the possibilities are countless. But no matter your problem, a gait analysis will likely help us determine a diagnosis of your situation, and we will then be able to put together a treatment plan customized to fit your specific needs.
Of course, your treatment will depend on a variety of factors. But in general, there are two ways to address the problem – externally or internally.
A good pair of custom orthotics is considered to be one of the most effective external types of treatment. Custom orthotics are shoe inserts that work with your unique foot structure and gait pattern. They can be used to control motion or provide additional cushioning in specific areas of need. We have been able to use orthotic devices to help many of our patients, and we can possibly do the same for you.
Now, when it comes to internal correction, we are talking about surgery. Though you should keep in mind that surgical intervention tends to be rare and we will always exhaust all conservative options before recommending it. And if you actually end up needing surgical intervention to correct your condition, then you can rest assured that when you come to our office you are in good hands.
Expert Biomechanics Evaluation and Treatment at Family Foot & Ankle Center
So if foot pain, soreness, or constant, repeated injuries are affecting your quality of life, just call our Family Foot & Ankle Center office to set up an appointment with one of our expert doctors today. You can reach us at (909) 920-0884, or simply fill out our handy request form online.