A few months ago, while working in my front yard to clean up the mess that the bad Spring storm left us with, I tweaked my right calf muscle ever so slightly. It was a simple tweak/pull felt after what I thought was a normal step. After shaking it out and rubbing it a little I didn’t give it another thought.
Summer went by with a trip to Alaska that included a lot of physical activity so when school started back up and I was given the opportunity to substitute for a departing gym teacher, I found myself eagerly participating in the ‘pacer’ test with some of the students. The pacer is part of the fitness assessment that measures cardio respiratory endurance and includes running laps with a timer.
On the 32nd lap, I felt that familiar tweak I had earlier, except this time it was more severe and caused me to limp my final eight laps. Feeling extremely frustrated and confused as to why, after all these years of physical activity, was I suddenly pulling muscles during what I consider basic activity, I limped back into the office and immediately elevated my leg and applied ice.
I started contemplating and thinking of possible reasons, refusing to give in to ‘age’.
Then it hit me. Advice I always ignored and thought was stupid. Advice that I ignore for fashion reasons.
No, not high heel shoes…..flip-flops.
All those articles I’ve read about how flip-flops are by far the worst things you can wear. Preferring bare feet to shoes, I continued to ignore these warnings, thinking that flip-flops were simply one step away from bare feet.
But if you realize why flip flops are bad, you begin to understand. A shoe with no arch support that requires the wearer to clench toes to keep them on causes a tightening of the muscles that are commonly used while walking, running, etc. This in turn causes those muscles that happen to include the calf muscle I tweaked, to contract while preventing its full range of motion.
Over time, this will lead to the muscle itself shortening and less flexibility. So when, after months of living in flip-flops, I go throw a pair of sneakers on and start running or stepping in a way that demands full range of motion, it isn’t there. This results in the tweaking/pulling that I experienced.
I have to admit that I am not going to throw away my flip-flops. What I will do is make sure that I continue some sort of activity that will keep those muscles conditioned correctly.
I will take the time to stretch my calf muscles. I will ensure that I dedicate adequate time for walking and/or running full and complete stride consistently more while wearing sneakers.
The more I wear flip-flops, the more I will give equal time to these exercises.
I have to be realistic. Not many people would be willing to give up the ability to wear all those shoes that are supposed to be harmful. But at least there are some other preventable methods we can exercise to minimize the risk.