Heel-first stepping is wrong?

In the traditional way of walking, formed by footwear, the foot adjusts to heel-first stepping because of the shoes. Wearing shoes has made our feet very passive.

I. The heel makes contact with the surface first when the foot is moved forward.

  • The shock is transmitted throughout the entire body. The pressure caused by this burdens the discs of the back and joints, and it is felt in the entire kinetic chain. Naturally, the heel of the shoe dampens the shock but at the same time, it hinders or delays the contact of the ball of the foot with the surface if the heel of the shoe is even slightly higher than the ball of the foot. Even the slightest increase in the heel height makes toe flexors passive, resulting in minimal pre-tension.
  • When stepping with the heel first, information regarding, for example, a slippery surface is received only when the contact with the surface has already been made. By the time we realise the surface is slippery, we will already have fallen. This is a very common reason for falling. We do not usually fall because the surface is slippery but because our contact with the surface is poor.

II. The weight of the body moves via the outside of the foot to the ball of the foot and, further, over the entire area of the foot, causing the ankle to pronate.

  • This motion is generally considered to be a mechanism for absorbing shock. However, the spring provided is so minimal that this action is not sufficient to absorb the shock, because when the heel touches the surface, the actual impact has already taken place. The information from the ball of the foot area and toes regarding the surface and position reaches the brain only after the weight of the body is completely on the foot, and at that point, it is too late to react.
  • The entire weight of the body is on the pronated ankle. If the ankle is over-pronated, the muscles that influence the position of the ankle are no longer able to turn the ankle back to the correct position (supination). This is the reason for shin splints because the tibialis anterior muscle in the front part of the shin is overstressed. The leg is not in an optimal position when it turns, which causes many stress injuries in the calf muscles and the knee joint.

III. In the thrusting phase, the weight of the body moves completely on the ball of the foot.

  • When the ankle continues to be over-pronated, the joints of the foot become overstressed too. When thrusting, the kinetic chain is incorrect and weak, resulting in stress injuries of the Achilles tendon and calf muscles (gastrocnemius).
  • It is not until at the end of the thrusting motion that the toe flexors are maximally active and the ankle supinates, causing the MTP joint of the big toe to both extend and rotate, which causes intense stress on the joint (a bunion).

Wearing the wrong kind of shoe makes the foot passive all the way from the childhood. This results in a lack of complete support for muscles, and the stress is placed on the connective tissue of the foot, causing the tissue to deteriorate over the years. This may be the single biggest reason for the increasingly prevalent over-pronation.

Read also: OrtoMalli step – For optimal motion