The Paralympics: inspiration and adaptation

The Paralympics are always inspiring, not just for the sporting achievements, but the innovative ways sports kit has been adapted for para athletes. From the running blades of sprinters to the heavy duty requirements for wheelchair rugby, advances in sportswear and equipment has enabled 4,400 athletes Paralympic competitors to compete in 539 medal events in 22 different sports at Tokyo 2020.

High tech sports gear

It’s not just Olympians who benefit from technological advances in sports either, as innovations for elite athletes ripple down into consumer sports gear too. A great example is sports shoes. No longer does “one trainer do for all runners” or indeed, one running shoe be right for both track and road runners.

So, when you go to buy sports shoes, you are often faced with an entire wall of shoes just for one sport! Many will be designed to improve your sports performance, from ‘sticky’ soles on climbing shoes to sliders on curling shoes. Once you’ve worked out what type and style of shoe you may need, it’s then down to size and fit.

Gait and fit

And this is where you can come unstuck. Off the shelf shoes are designed to fit as many people as possible within a given foot size. That’s fine, but they are also designed for people with “normal” gait, which basically means people whose weight is balanced equally on both feet when they walk.

In reality, many of us have a normal gait, whether that’s due to medical conditions, foot problems, current or former injuries, weight, or just habits formed over many years from ill-fitting. Imbalances in our gait might cause us to have common aches and pains in our heels, foot arches, legs, knees, hips and lower back. For those of us with non-standard gaits, any shoe that is balanced for optimal gait may not give us the support we need.

Know your gait

The easiest way to discover the state of your gait is to visit your local Hunt Footcare foot clinic. Our foot care team will undertake a biomechanical assessment of your gait, which will look at a range of movements including:

  • the range of motion in your joints
  • your balance
  • any misalignments in your legs, pelvis, feet and/or shoulders
  • testing your muscle strength and flexibility
  • the way you walk in your current footwear
  • your lifestyle, including the physical demands of your work

Once your tests are complete, our team will advise the best course of treatment to realign and improve your gait. Our treatment plan could include a bespoke exercise program, and custom-made orthotics that slip into your footwear. These align your feet to improve your gait, reduce strain on your muscles and joints, and therefore improve your performance whatever sport you enjoy.

Custom orthotics for sports

If orthotics are recommended, you should bring both your ordinary shoes AND any specialist sports shoes with you to your orthotics fitting appointment. This is because the custom-made orthotics you need for everyday walking may not be right for use in specialist footwear. You might need a separate pair for your badminton or cycling shoes, your hiking or hockey boots.

So, before you splash out on top of the range sports shoes, it’s worth investing in a proper gait analysis first. Then you can be sure that the shoes or boots you buy fit well, and can deliver the performance boost the manufacturers aim for. For more details, see our custom orthotics page.

Sports injury rehabilitation

Whether you’re a high-kicking taekwondo competitor, or using your feet to shoot arrows like the US Armless Archer, foot injuries and muscles strains are a constant risk for weekend warriors and world champions alike. If you do sustain a sports injury, our team can help assess it and draw up a recovery and rehabilitation plan to ensure a faster and safer return to the sport you love. See our Sports Injuries page  for more details, or call us to book an appointment.

Inspired by the Paralympians?

This year, para badminton and para taekwondo make their Paralympics debut, and the return of the unique paraolympic sport of boccia. If you are inspired to take up a new sport, or get active again, you can find more details on sports in your area at the following websites:
Community Sports Council Ontario
Sports & Recreation in Oxford County
Clubs and Organisations in the City of Perth
Sports in Middlesex County
Sports and Recreation in City of London

Hunt Footcare – here to help

Call us to make an appointment at one of our three local foot clinics in Ontario.

• Stratford foot clinic
Ingersoll footcare clinic
London footcare clinic

Published On: August 27, 2021