The more love you give your knees, the more your feet will benefit from that love, says Dr. RJ Ritchie MS, PAC, PhD (orthopedic surgery and sports medicine). And the best footwear takes care of your knees at the same time it takes care of your feet, because it keeps your alignment correct, straight and strong.
RJ tells us that the best way to keep your knees in normal alignment is to use high-quality footwear that is not worn out. This is easier said than done – most people lose sight of – or don’t pay attention to -- how worn out their shoes have become. Shoes with many miles on them are going to apply abnormal stresses to the knee ligaments, cartilage, and soft tissue structures like the menisci.Just as important is to make sure your shoes have good cushioning in the sole or heel – be it gel or air – to minimize the impact load while walking or running. Without it, the constant pounding could lead to knee pain.
If you have a history of ankle sprains or injuries, you may want to invest in a pair of mid-tops or high-tops, for better ankle support. Ankle pain or injury can have a domino effect on the knees. If your ankle is loose or unstable, or every time you do a foot strike, your knee may turn slightly in or slightly out, which could lead to problems. It’s here especially where the knee is connected to the ankle.
Weight gain is bad news for both the feet and the knees: for every pound that you gain, you apply four pounds of extra pressure on your lower-body joints. So do the math: if you gain ten pounds, that’s 40 pounds of pressure on your knees and ankles. That can add up and do a lot of harm.
RJ recommends supplements like Omega 3s (think fish oils), which are a natural anti-inflammatory for all joints. A currently popular supplement for joints – glucosamine chrondrotin – is claimed by some companies to actually rebuild cartilage, but it won’t. What it will do: slow down the degeneration and straighten the matrix of the cartilage. RJ also recommends Turmeric Curcumin, which acts as a natural anti-inflammatory.
Be patient, though. RJ observes that many patients get discouraged if they don’t see immediate results. Even when taking fish oil, there is a lag time – it needs to first super-saturate your system. It may take two weeks or longer before you start to notice a difference. You have to give the supplements enough time to work.
For those about to exercise (including walking): take the time to do specific strengthening exercises, especially if you have a history of injury to the knee or ankle.
Other factors can contribute to the knee/ankle connection: degeneration from aging or arthritis, or even just plain genetics or past injuries. Everybody has a different experience; RJ has seen 40-year-olds with the knees of 70-year-olds. There is no umbrella cure or universal answer, but there is definitely a relationship between footwear and knee care.
Find out more about RJ on Instagram: @rj_team_bpi, and be on the lookout for his personal training site, coming soon.