Dr. Jessica Lee – Hong Kong Chiropractor

Information and Thoughts about Chiropractic, Health, and the Human Body.


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Our Love Hate Relationship with Uggs

In the recent years, girls and women of all ages have fallen in love with… Uggs!  Uggs with their suede exterior and sheepskin lining, so comfortable, so easy to slip on and off, so warm, so cushioned, aaaaand they match all of your outfits.  However, many people notice foot, ankle, knee, and hip pain with prolonged wear of Uggs and its imitators.  So… are Uggs bad for your feet?

On average, we take 3000 to 5000 steps everyday. With each of these steps we have to carry our entire weight on our feet.  Also putting into consideration activities such as running or sports, we add even more stress to our overworked feet.  It is no surprise that a large portion of the population suffers from pain in their feet and ankles, all the way up to their knees, hips, and lower back.

Many factors influence if a person is predisposed to foot and ankle pain such as flat or overpronated feet, walking mechanics, footwear, activities, demands, etc.  One factor that we can control is footwear.  The best type of shoes are usually semi-rigid that is not too flexible and has a small heel.  Shoes should be supportive for your foot type.  Some people may require motion control while others may require more cushioning.  With the popularity of “bad” footwear such as flip-flops, flats, and Uggs, healthcare practitioners have seen a rise in the number of women who experience toe deformities, backache, and foot pain.

What’s Wrong With Uggs?

It has been stated that as little as 6 months of wear can lead to a lifetime of foot deformities, backache, and pain in their feet. Uggs are known to be for comfort and not performance footwear.  Although these shoes apparently have a reinforced heel and “cushioned” insoles, they don’t offer the motion control, cushion, or support that is necessary for prolonged walking or standing especially on the tough surfaces that we most often walk on (concrete, asphalt, industrial flooring).  This is why people who spend lots of time with their Uggs may notice that their foot arches hurt, their feet feel very tired, or there may be pain on the outside of their ankles.  The symptoms may not even show up until later as the shoes feel so comfortable during wear.

We’ve all heard about the arches of the feet.  These arches are important to help the foot absorb shock as we walk and do our normal activities.  Bad shoes with poor arch support can lead to overuse injuries.  This means that the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones in the foot and ankle have to overwork.  Low arch or flat-foot people who consistently wear loose-fitting boots like Uggs have their ankles roll inwards with every step. The structures around the foot and ankle need to compensate for this and over time, this can lead to sprain/strain injuries.  Studies have shown that there is a relationship between a flat arch and issues with the knee, hip, and back.

Some doctors suggest that people with high arches have quite stable feet that could benefit from footwear that is more shock absorbent and cushioned so Uggs may not be so bad for them.  However, other doctors are anti-Uggs for everyone as whether you have a low arch or a high arch, there are issues.  These boots just don’t have enough support under the foot, or around the ankle joint and Achilles tendon.

“If you look at the wear pattern of most Uggs, it collapses around the medial malleolus area and it starts to bunch.  That means not enough support and pronators will continue to over-pronate. If you pull out the inside fluffy insole, you’ll see that it is very flat.  There is no shape to it, so there really isn’t much support.  However, it is overlooked because the fluffy fur on top still makes it very comfortable.  Also, the shape of the Ugg boot is a “J”; there is no contour to support the ankle area.  The suede extends through the whole boot area, and the side stitching isn’t enough to give adequate support to ankle”– Dr. Nancy Wan

“Uggs are horrible for your arches.  They provide no support for the arches of your foot; therefore, the arches collapse and can increase risk for strains and sprains” – Dr. Tracy Ho

Another issue with wearing Uggs is that they are loose-fitting.  So with each step we take, our feet will slide around inside.  There is a term for the gait of Ugg wearers called the “shuffle” where people start walking lopsided and pigeon-toed to keep their shoes on while they walk.  As you walk with Uggs, the foot slides around and the force when walking ends up more on the inside of the foot leading the foot to splay.  When your foot splays, the arch of the foot flattens and again this will lead to the joints and muscles of the feet, ankles, knees, hips, and back overworking.

Performing everyday movements such as prolonged walking, standing, and daily activities in Uggs can lead to both temporary and long-term effects.  Symptoms may start off as just a minor pain in the arch or heel pain.  As the muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments have to start working differently to compensate for not enough support, this long term stress can lead to long term problems such as bunions, hammertoes, arthritis, inflammation of the tendons, knee pain, hip pain, and lower back pain.

So …do we break up with our Uggs?

Keep it casual with your Uggs.  They’re fine to wear at out for short times or when you know you won’t be doing any prolonged walking, prolonged standing, or major activities.  If you already have aches and pains from wearing your Uggs, it could be time to stop and find something more supportive.  Many foot and ankle issues arise due to improper footwear.  There is a company that offers sheepskin-lined orthotics that may help provide a bit more support or adding custom/pre-made supportive insoles may help as well; however, even with this, the actual structure of the shoe is not great for people who need more foot and ankle support.  Just as we should not wear flip-flops for prolonged periods of walking or activity, it is wise to keep Ugg boot wearing to a minimum.

If you start noticing pain in your feet and ankles, it is time to head for the nearest chiropractor and get assessed, and to also have your knees, hips, and back checked as well.

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