Your shoes may be weakening your muscle — these are the signs to look out for

If you’ve noticed a recurring fascia pain in the base of your foot or muscle spasms while working out, it may have something to do with your footwear—yes, even the expensive running shoes you purchased with the intent of doing good for your lower limb muscles and joints.

In a recent study by Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel E. Lieberman, Ph.D., your shoes could be weakening the muscles in your feet.

Researchers found that the more your shoes curve in the front, the less power the foot inside the shoe has to exert when pushing off from the ground—meaning that your feet actually have to work a lot less hard to move and propel forward than it would barefoot.

This basically means that lower limb muscle activity can actually be affected by the type of shoes you’ve been wearing—particularly the hardness of the midsole or the curve in the front.

The hardness of a show runs the risk of causing muscle weakness by working against the muscle fibers of the foot and in turn having a systematic effect on the muscle activity in the lower body which when combined with a curved toe means your feet are working less hard than ever—which can be alarming because when you really think about it, when was the last time you actually tried to work out the muscles in your feet?

“It stands to reason that if the foot muscles have to do less work, then they’re probably going to have less endurance given that many thousands of times a day you push off on your toes,” said Lieberman in a press release, adding that one of the biggest problems in the world today of people’s feet is plantar fasciitis.

“We think that what happens is that people are relying on their plantar fascia to do what muscles normally do. When you get weak muscles and the plantar fascia has to do more work, it’s not really evolved for that and so it gets inflamed.”

So what can you do to avoid having your muscles weakened by your choice of footwear? While modern running shoes may not go anywhere anytime soon, according to Dr. Giuseppe Aragona M.D., there are two other main shoe types that can affect the muscles in the body and make them weaker, and that is non-supportive flat shoes and high heels.

“We are not talking about shoes that are flat, but if you spend a lot of your day in flip flops and not wearing proper shoes or sneakers, your feet will have nothing to bounce from and will get tired more quickly,” Dr. Aragona tells Ladders over email.

“This will start to affect the muscles and make it more difficult to walk over time. As for heels, they stretch out the foot too much sometimes, which can weaken the ankles. If you are prone to slipping too, this could also cause some damage.”

While more research still needs to be done before any black and white conclusions can be determined, if you’re worried about foot pain or suspect the muscles in your feet are becoming weakened or inflamed, be sure to consult a doctor and try making the switch to a more orthopedic-friendly footwear option—for both walking and work outs.