I’ve written before about how I suffered from chronic pain in my right pelvis and psoas-area after the birth of my second child. I was in physical therapy for about a year and a half, and as a result became interested in (obsessed?) with whole body alignment and the impact it plays in health and wellness.
Part of my journey involved learning how to stand, sit and walk the way that my body was meant to do these things. That all required some pretty challenging work to teach my muscles and brain to fire properly and in the right sequence.
For many reasons, some which I can enumerate for certain (years of dancing, pelvic floor weakness from two pregnancies in quick succession, traditional “ab” work, running marathons and other distances without sufficient functional core strength) and some about which I can only speculate (leg length difference, endometriosis, genetics) I was relying too heavily on my psoas muscles and not enough on my glutes when I walked. My right leg turned out when I walked and ran, and I was failing to properly push off and fire my glutes.
Many hours of corrective work later, and many, many miles logged with me mindfully keeping my feet facing forward, my gait has substantially improved AND I have a much more functional bum to show for it! My pelvic floor weakness has improved, my core strength is more functional than I could have ever dreamed, and when I am not sleep-deprived, I am largely pain-free.
One of the things that I do to maintain my gait and thus my health is avoid heels. I’ve written before about my move to minimalist shoes, and I’ve shared my mom’s shoe audit where I discussed what I look for in shoes now. Today, I thought I would show you some videos depicting why wearing the “least shoe possible” matters so much.
I did a little video documentation of my stride for you all, so you (and I!) can consider the changes that occur in natural gait when I wear shoes with a heel. But before I dive in, I want to say what a really terrific exercise this was for me. I learned I have a long way to go before I achieve a truly healthy gait. I bounce too much, for sure, and even in my barefoot video, I find I am still not reaching the hip extension / glute recruitment levels I think I should. I remain a little overactive in the quads and boy, am I bouncy. If you review this terrific post from Katy Bowman on why you don’t want to see that bounce in your step, you will see I have lots of work left to do. (Be sure to watch the first video to see the desired “fast,smooth” gait.)
So, here I am from the side, walking barefoot:
And now, here I am, walking in traditional heels:
I also donned wedges, which tend to be high-heeled and really inflexible in the toe box which inhibits that propulsion phase:
And now, because I love you guys so much, you get to see me from behind. So, here’s a shot of my bum walking barefoot:
And now, in those wedges:
You may notice, I am really trying to walk correctly even in the wedges and heels. Take a peek at this image depicting the three foot phases in the gait cycle, and watch the wedge and heel videos again. I have to say, I make a valiant effort to get that heel strike and toe propulsion in!
I hope you noticed that in the heels and wedges, my knees were at a funny angle, my stride was shorter, the angle in my lumbar spine was more pronounced, and my quads were in overdrive.
What else did you notice? (Besides my poor neighbor who was just trying to garden in peace?) I challenge you to video your own stride wearing different shoes. Compare them to Katy’s ideal gait in this video. What did you learn about how YOU walk?