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Making the Most of the Dog Days of Summer

woman walking the dogAs the summer reaches its peak we want to be outdoors as much as possible to enjoy nature, breathe fresh air, and stay fit. Going for a walk is probably the simplest form of outdoor activity for both young and old.

You can take a shorter walk around the neighbourhood or choose a path in one of Ottawa’s many green spaces. And there’s no costly gear to purchase – just slap on a hat, sunscreen and bug spray.

But wait a minute… your feet will be doing most of the work so what about footwear?

For a shorter stroll, it’s often tempting to just don a pair of flip-flops. However, the simplicity of this footwear comes at a significant price to your spinal health.

Your feet – much like the basement of a house – serve as the foundation for your entire body. When the base is misaligned, it throws everything else out of alignment, from your ankles, knees, hips, and even right up into your spine.

When walking, your feet follow more of a “rocking chair-like” motion. Your weight rolls from the heel, through the ball of your foot, and continues to the toe.

Flip flops offer virtually no support and too much flexibility. This changes the way you walk by shortening your stride and interfering with your natural gait. In flip flops, your feet will also have the tendency to roll inward, which can result in pain in the lower body and spine.

So, what shoes to choose?

colorful footwaresWalkers benefit from a well-supported, flexible shoe with all-over cushioning. The shoe should provide support through the arch where the force of the foot striking the ground is heaviest. Your heel should be held in place, and the shoe should only flex at the ball of the foot to allow for that rolling motion we mentioned earlier.

Too much bend in the middle of the shoe will lead to the same issues caused by flip flops. The “toe box” – the entire area that surrounds your toes – should provide adequate room to move your toes.

Harvard Medical School has published a helpful general guide for purchasing shoes, including tips such as waiting until the late afternoon to buy shoes because your feet can swell 10% to 15% in the course of a day, and trying on shoes with a pair of socks similar to the ones that you plan on wearing with that shoe.

And speaking of dog days…

Dogs provide a wonderful reason to get off the couch and go for regular, longer walks every day. This activity serves as a health benefit and a stress reliever.

Before setting off with Fido, there are a few things that you might want to bear in mind. Here at Hazeldean Family Chiropractic Clinic, we have seen patients with shoulder strains and other injuries that can result from a dog pulling on a leash.

  • When taking your dog for a walk the idea is to walk! It may be fun to ride your bike or use rollerblades but a dog that decides to take off and start running can easily pull you over if you are on two wheels.
  • Focus on obedience training to make sure that the dog does not pull or lunge forward while on the leash. You want the dog walking nicely by your side on a loose leash – the dog’s snout should not be in front of the owner’s toes (“nose to toes”).
  • Avoid retractable leashes because they teach the dog to pull because they are rewarded with even more leash when they pull forward. Use a nylon leash, or consider a harness or a collar that applies pressure when they pull. If pulling is uncomfortable for the dog, they’ll avoid doing it.
  • Do not wrap the leash around your wrist, hand or finger. If your dog decides to chase that squirrel, you could sustain a serious injury. An I’m Gismo™ leash holder is a comfortable, ergonomic grip to which you can attach the leash (it even comes with a poop-bag dispenser!).
  • And on that note – when picking up dog poop, take your time and squat down and bend your knees. Proper lifting techniques, even for small items, is a great habit to maintain back health.

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