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We recently ran into a middle-aged friend and sometime patient who was complaining of growing aches and pains in her knees, hips and back. She wasn't an athlete, or particularly active, so the pain probably wasn't from overuse. She also didn't have a weight problem, so stress on the joints from obesity wasn't the answer. She remarked that she thought she might have Lyme Disease and had set up an appointment with her family physician to be tested. Sorry to hear that, we said, That's truly a painful condition.
And then we looked down at her shoes - the most beat-up, worn-out flats we ever saw.
"You have flat feet, don't you?"
"Yes, I do."
"Do you wear those shoes often?"
"Yes, I love them."
"Throw them away and never wear them again. Those shoes have zero support and flat feet need arch support. I bet if you wear sneakers instead your pain will go away."
"I hadn't thought of that."
Most people assume that the growing pain in their knees, hips, or back is caused by a crippling disease or an unknown injury. But in fact, the source of your pain may actually be rooted in your feet - or more specifically, heels and arches which aren't supported correctly (as in our friend's case), or feet that are out of alignment with your ankle and leg.
The older we get...
As we age we have to take better care of our feet. After forty-plus years of neglect, they gradually become painful, arthritic, misaligned, and prone to bunions and hammertoes. Our feet are designed to distribute and support our body weight evenly across the forefoot and heels, and a critical part of this is the proper alignment of the foot/ankle and the ankle/lower leg. In the case of those who have flat feet, arch support is required for proper alignment and to avoid fatigue.
When we're out of alignment, or lack arch support, we get tired and sore, which causes us to shift our body weight to get comfortable. Then the sides of our foot, forefoot or heel carry too much weight and our ankles, knees, hips and legs compensate, which causes stress on the joints. And when the stress is continuous, the joints become irritated and painful.
It may be hard to believe that such acute and bothersome pain can be caused by a lack of arch support or the misalignment of your foot/ankle/lower leg. In many cases, a simple change in footwear to a quality pair of athletic shoes, worn as often as possible, is the answer. To correct your alignment and relive fatigue, your podiatrist may also recommend custom orthotics to be worn inside your shoes.
And how is our friend doing now, one month later? She reports that she's been wearing sneakers as often as possible and her back, hip and knee pain is nearly gone. Voila!