Heel Drop & Arch Suppor

Warum schwache Ellen & Knöchel so schlecht sind!



Warum schwache Ellen & Knöchel so schlecht sind!

Sadly enough in 2017, the topic of the heel drop in a shoe (the difference between the heel-to-toe ratio of your shoe) and arch supports is still so confusing.

In Kelly Starrett’s Book Ready to Run, he did a great job letting the cat out of the bag to the public about the harm associated with extra “supports” and too high of a heel-to-toe ratio. But the shoe industry generates 3 billion dollars each year, and comfort and design are the biggest revenue drivers, so I guess it is a battle we should not expect to win anytime soon.

However, companies like No Bull, Reebok, Altra, and some of the old companies like Merrell and Asics are getting back in the game. And with the correct education, maybe we do stand a chance. But the key word here is “EDUCATION.” Trust me on this one, it was only 5 years ago that I was told that my left ankle was so bad (with pronation) that I would fall victim to an arch support shoe, arch support, and the idea that pronation was just a way of life. Of course, this was all coming from doctors and foot “specialists.” How could they be wrong? Well, they were…. All of them! Today I have absolutely no problem or pain, a zero-drop shoe is not a problem, and an arch support is the last thing I would ever think about. I actually cannot even wear most Nikes or general shoes because I find them uncomfortable due to the amount of “support” or cushion in the heel. I made some mistakes along the way, like going from a full stable shoe to a zero-drop too fast, and I paid the price with an Achilles that caught on fire. But I did not give up and kept going back to the drawing board and experimenting with different ways.

So let’s start by taking some time to learn a bit about why these little bad boys that hold up your arch are so bad. Follow me down analogy road, and if you are still with me at the end not only will we find the rainbow, but most likely you will be online looking for some new shoes!

Concept 1: When something is weak, it needs to be strengthened.

Imagine your arm was broken and put into a cast. What happens to the arm after the bone is healed? It has become weak due to lack of use and the muscles atrophying. So one concept we can all agree on is that when we don’t use something, the chance of it getting weak makes sense. “If you don’t use it, you lose it” applies here. So why would anything be different with an arch support? The process usually starts with the doctor or whomever informing you that your arch is weak and you must use an arch support (basically a cast) to support it and “hold” it in the correct spot. Usually the first few weeks feels great, as the pain is gone because the foot is realigned and places the knee and hip back into the correct position, but then the pain comes back – and many times the pronation of the ankle slowly starts to get worse! This brings us back to our cast example. No one would expect the arm to come out of the cast and look like Popeye’s, so why do we expect our arch to do anything different? The arch and the entire bottom of the foot are full of muscles, fascia, and connective tissue just like our arm (and the rest of the body.) This is why it slowly becomes worse. Imagine wearing a cast on your arm for 8 hours a day every day for months or years!!

Concept 2: OMG they are terrible, STOP THEM IMMEDIATELY!!!

Unfortunately, this is one of the worst things we can do (and was my mistake.) Using our cast example again, imagine if the moment you removed the cast, you then decided to do a push up competition or return to normal sports activity. Things would not go so great and the chance of injury would be quite high. So, what do we do? REHAB! From physical therapy to exercises in the gym, we understand the arm is much weaker than the other one and, through specific exercises, we start to regain the muscle we lost. In a few months things will be close enough to normal and we can continue our life like before. So maybe going from a super stable shoe with built-in arch support AND an orthotic insert (along with the HUGE heel-to-toe ratio) to a zero-drop shoe is not the best idea?! This is a bit tragic, because many people have made this mistake. Then the doctors, physical therapists, etc. tell the client this was a bad idea and that’s why they have a “special” shoe or whatever to fix the problem.

At GTS, we have worked with some clients for over 1 year before we brought them to a zero-drop (or 4-mm drop) shoe. Sometimes we have to move away from the monstrous shoe they came in with to a version in the middle (like a 6-8mm drop.) While the desire to not use an arch support is fantastic, we need to make sure we do this in a responsible manner and implement rehab exercises to strengthen what has being lying dormant and asleep for the past “x” amount of years.

Often my clients (and you too!) might notice that the arch does not even fire or want to contract! This is because the arch has become so lazy from always relying on the support, and we cannot even get the neurological message to the little guy to work! Imagine you wanted to eat but could not remember how to pull your hand to your mouth (using your biceps muscle). That would be a disaster!? However, the solution would not be to continue your life simply eating with your other hand. To address that issue, we would need to strengthen the other arm. We might not start with a full on biceps curl, but simply trying an easier exercise (like an isometric contraction.) Before you know it, the body catches on and you are eating with both hands like a pro. So, if we don’t make an exception with our arm, why do it with our feet?

We need to remember that the problem was not created overnight, so the solution will take some time. While everyone is different, a general program and template is not the easiest thing. However, now that you understand the importance of your arch and are armed with better information. I recommend you play around with these concepts, listen to the feedback your body is giving you (along with trying the exercise posted in this blog.) And sooner than later you will be in a much better shoe, pain free, and back to doing what you love!

Feel free to contact us @ our address below with any questions and look at our YouTube page for videos on this subject!

David Grant MS, ATC, NASM PES




David Grant has a Masters in Human Performance & Injury Prevention and is a certified and licensed athletic trainer. David spent over 15 years traveling the world working pro sports and now runs a sports and lifestyle rehabilitation company in Sindelfingen, Germany. David continues to speak internationally and lectures for the University of Tübingen Sports Science Department. For more information, visit www.gtsgermany.com or email David at [email protected]

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