Many people experience sore, tired feet at the end of the day or after they have been standing or walking for a prolonged period of time.

What causes sore, tired feet?

A common misconception is that sore, tired feet are the result of shock forces generated when an individual walks, runs, or stands for long periods of time.

In reality, sore, tired feet are the result of poor or maladapted neuromuscular function that has been conditioned by footwear use.

Each foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles and tendons.

The functional movement and stability of our feet is controlled by muscles.

Foot muscles comprise two groups:

  1. Intrinsic muscles: small muscles in the feet that primarily control ‘fine-tuned’ movements such as picking something up with the toes
  2. Extrinsic muscles: larger muscles in the lower legs that are principally involved in propulsion and in control of the stability of the foot’s arch system, the foot’s adaption to terrain, and management of weight bearing forces.

When the extrinsic muscles do not do their job as a result of maladapted neuromuscular function, the intrinsic muscles attempt to assume the load, which causes them to overwork and fatigue, leading to sore, tired feet.

Sore and Tired Feet
Leg Anatomy

For proper function, our feet require the Right Stimulus and the Right Movement.

Right Stimulus consists of the subtle varied stimulus that the soles of our feet receive when we walk, especially when we walk barefoot on natural terrain. With each step, there are subtly different sensations.

These subtle differences in stimulus keep our brain on high alert so that our body’s protective reflexes function properly with optimal muscle function.

When our brain is uncertain about what will happen, it triggers protective reflex muscle activations that support our arches before our feet contact the ground to ensure that our feet and legs can safely manage the forces generated by the activity intensity of our bodies.

As activity-related stimulus intensifies, a progressively higher arch is created. That’s why, when they are functioning properly, our arches and toes rise and fall dynamically in response to the varying activity stimulus intensities. This uninhibited dynamic movement is Right Movement.

Right Stimulus and Right Movement prevent the imbalanced muscle function that contributes to the overworking of the intrinsic muscles and the related sore tired feet.

Right Stimulus
Toe Raise Beach

Conventional footwear impairs optimal foot function in two ways:

First, most conventional footwear dampens Right Stimulus.

This is particularly true for shoes or insoles that support or cushion our feet. They spread the forces evenly across the soles of our feet, creating sensory input that’s muted and repetitive, step after step. Within a short period of time, our brain tunes out the stimulus and stops responding to it.

As a result, our brain doesn’t sufficiently activate the muscles that stabilize our arches and properly align our feet, legs, hips, and lower back, before our feet contact the ground. This “tuned-out” brain response is natural and happens all the time. For example, the same thing happens when we walk into a room and first smell coffee that we no longer notice after only a few minutes.

Second, most conventional footwear, especially footwear that’s tightly laced, has snug toe boxes or stiff midsoles or outsoles, restricts the Right Movement dynamic raising of the arches and toes that is critical in the creation of a strong stable arch system and healthy linear propulsion with the toe off forces spread across the forefoot.

Impaired Right Stimulus and Right Movement increase the strain and damaging stresses on the ‘intrinsic’ muscles of the feet.

Conventional treatment methods for sore, tired feet include:

  • Cushioning products
  • Supportive products such as orthotics
  • Exercise
  • Ice
  • Massage
Soft Cushy Insole
Sore Tired Feet

While these methods may temporarily alleviate symptoms, they do not address the poor neuromuscular function that is the cause of the problem. In fact, the more we artificially support or cushion our feet, the weaker and the more dependent we become on these types of products.

These “old school” support and cushioning treatment methods are not recommended in any other area of musculoskeletal medicine as a viable long-term treatment option.

In fact, modern treatment methods for poor neuromuscular function focus on increasing mobility, muscle strength, and proper alignment via Proper Technique exercise, which requires both Right Stimulus and Right Movement. Science has shown that simply challenging the body to “do its job” is the best way to restore and enhance function.

This principle is the foundation for virtually all of today’s sports training/rehabilitation programs.

Recommendations to address the poor neuromuscular function that causes shin splints and prevents them from reoccurring

  • Walk barefoot on natural terrain as often as possible. This provides the optimal Right Stimulus and allows for the Right Movement required for healthy neuromuscular function.
  • To obtain Right Stimulus in your conventional footwear, use BioPods® Stimsoles® and, for best results, use them in loosely laced, soft, flexible footwear that allows your arches and toes to rise easily.
  • Consult with your healthcare practitioner to ask about employing soft tissue mobilization therapies to address the fibrotic scar tissue that may have formed, prior to using BioPods products.