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What your shoes reveal about you

    The wear and tear on your shoes can tell you a lot about how you move through life. They can tell you about your reflex patterns, compensations, and tightness in your body. Your body responds to stress* with different muscular reflexes. These are automatic and not conscious. When you have a train to catch, your back muscles contract to make you go (I'll call this green-light reflex). When you're worried or anxious, your belly and chest muscles contract (I'll call this red-light reflex).

    With repetitive exposure to certain stresses, these responses become habitual and your muscles learn to stay contracted in a certain way. You're not aware of it usually, and this is called Sensory Motor Amnesia, a "forgetting" that you're contracting certain muscles. This contracting is happening in the sub-cortex of the brain, where things happen automatically and unconsciously, such as the act of walking. (you learned to walk when you were 1 year old and it has been automatic and unconscious ever since then).

    "Stress" is neither good nor bad; it is simply the response of the body to a demand. How you respond and adapt to the daily demands placed on you determines how well your body stands up to the demands of living.

    Your shoes tell a story

    Go find a pair of shoes you wear a lot. Have a look at them and notice where you see the wear and tear. Is it even? Or is there more wear on the outside or the inside of your shoes? Is your left shoe different from your right?

    Withdrawal reflex

    On this pair of flip flops, you can see how the inner edge of the heel has worn more than the outer edge. Thus, more weight is being transferred to the inner heel of the foot. This indicates a typical red-light reflex pattern, which is essentially internal rotation of legs, and toes and knees pointing inward. It can also include shoulders rounding forward. The person wearing these shoes will likely have tight pecs, tight abs (this does not necessarily mean absence of belly fat!), and tight hip flexors. They might also have shallow breathing and neck pain.

    Green light reflex

    On this pair running shoes, you can see the opposite: more wear on outer edge of heels. This indicates a typical green-light reflex which means weight is on outer edge of foot, legs are externally rotated (feet point outward), and can also include an arched back. They might be bowlegged. The person wearing these shoes will likely have tight (and sore) back muscles, both in the lower and upper back (so likely tight shoulders as well).

    Trauma reflex

    Here is a photo of these same shoes, which shows another view. You can see the wear is on the outside edges of the shoes, and the right shoe has a lot more wear that the left (it looks like a different sized shoe!). This imbalance means there is likely another reflex involved, and that is the trauma reflex. This shows up as unevenness in weight in one side of body over the other, i.e. there is a favoured side, usually due to habits or an accident or surgery. I do know that this person had knee surgery several years ago on his right knee. Even though this surgery was necessary and helpful, it is still trauma to the body: a spastic tightening reaction occurs in the muscles surrounding the site of injury or surgery (in an effort to protect area). This person likely has complaints with the right side of the body: could be in shoulder, hip, leg, knee or foot.
    Most of us have a combination of these reflex patterns in our body. But there is usually a dominant pattern. The good news is that this is not permanent, and can be changed, by re-educating the muscles, through Somatics.

    If you are curious and want to learn more, read here. If you are interested in exploring the patterns in your own body, you could try a Somatics class or a free assessment.


    *remember, "stress" is neither good nor bad; it is simply the response of the body to a demand. How you respond and adapt to the daily demands placed on you determines how well your body stands up to the demands of living.

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