We think of health when we go to the gym, choose our meals, and clock our sleep, but gravity’s pull on our bodies creates healthy opportunities for a lifetime of postures. For all the items that hunch, slump, and twist us, there is a product fighting for realignment. Contoured office chairs, elevated monitors, and ergonomic keyboards support our work habits. Firm-adjusting mattresses cradle our sleeping patterns no matter what shapes they take. Support is near when off our feet, but under the full weight of the world, what balances our spines when standing? Neck, shoulders, back, hips, knees, and toes speak to each other from the ground up. To listen to our bodies and find the benefits of good posture, we must start with our shoes.
What Is Good Posture?
How do we strike a healthy pose? If we were to imagine a line drawn from our tailbone, along our spine, up to the crown of our head, this line would be as straight as possible, commonly expressed in the yoga community as Head over heart. Heart over pelvis. “Your abdomen should be pulled in. Knees should be soft, not locked. And you should be looking straight ahead, not down,” says Laura Deon, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Rush University Medical Center (www.rush.edu). When standing with good posture, “your shoulders are down and back, hips and knees are in a neutral position with feet shoulder width apart, and your body weight is distributed evenly.”
Maintaining proper alignment is critical to our long-term health as the more we lean or hunch, the more stress we place on individual parts. Like holding a bucket of water at our side verses with an outstretched hand, it’s easier and safer to carry weight when it falls inline with our center.
Our bodies will thank us inside and out for relieving the pressures of gravity. “Aligning your spine means that you're using your muscles properly, which reduces stress on your bones and joints,” Deon says. “This decreases abnormal wear and tear that, over time, can lead to osteoarthritis as well as lingering aches and pains. Joints in your neck, shoulders, low back and hips are some of the most vulnerable.”
The freer we are to move without discomfort, the happier we feel and the more energy we have, but posture can translate even deeper.
According to Erik Peper, a psychology professor at San Francisco State University, “Emotions and thoughts affect our posture and energy levels; conversely, posture and energy affect our emotions and thoughts,” says one of Peper’s studies from 2012, and two minutes of skipping versus walking in a slouched position can make a significant difference on our energy levels (www.fastcompany.com).
“Since posture affects our mood and thoughts so much, the increase of collapsed sitting and walking–from sitting in front of our computer to looking down at our smartphones–may very much have an effect on the rise of depression in recent years. Peper and his team of researchers suggest that posture is a significant contributor to decreased energy levels and depression. Slouching is also known to result in frequent headaches and neck and shoulder pains.”
We are how we stand and it all starts from the ground up, but how does what we wear on our feet affect our posture?
The Problem with Traditional Shoes
If our bodies were a tower of blocks, the block at the base would decide how the others stand. If the foundation is tilted or off center, then the rest of the blocks will follow suit, worsening their balance as they reach the top.
Elevated heels of traditional footwear remove our natural barefoot ability to evenly distribute weight throughout the entire foot and replace it with the tilted, tapered structures of the product. The shoe decides how the heel should rest, how the arch should bend, and the toes should flex. The foot is a passenger in the shoe’s design, forcing the rest of the body to follow suit, adjusting to the shoe’s unique definition of level.
A bare foot is dependent on the ground. A foot in a shoe is dependent on the shoe.
The best way to achieve proper alignment is in a shoe without heels or elevated soles, known in the minimalist/barefoot-feel shoe community as a zero drop.
The Power of Zero Drop
Zero drop footwear trusts the foundation we were born with. Rather than altering the foot to the manufacturer's design, zero drops encourage feet to strengthen themselves through the body’s own weight and movement.
“When your foot is in its natural state, with both feet ‘flat’ on the ground, your body can be properly aligned, reducing your risk of injury.” (https://www.thesole.show) “Also, a wide toe-box will allow your foot to move, bend, and work the way that it’s supposed to. Having no arch support means your shoes won’t interfere with the natural running form and spring-like mechanism of the arch.”
Freeing our feet to walk as themselves, frees our body to stand tall, and only one Colorado-made sneaker company delivers this promise with every pair we cut, stitch, sole, and ship.
The Benefits of SOM Footwear
SOM shoes offer flexible, lightweight, zero drop soles with wide toe-boxes to allow your feet room to breathe. By keeping your toes and heels level and closer to the ground, not only will your posture and stability improve over time, but so will your awareness and connection to the world around you.
Balance comes from the ground up, and solid foundations are built on even structures. With the confidence of better posture with every step, SOMs strengthen your feet to do more.