Dr. Meredith Warner here -
When I designed The Healing Sole I had certain goals.
1. I wanted to reduce or eliminate pain in the foot caused by Plantar Fasciitis or Morton's Neuroma successfully.
2. I wanted to achieve a proper biomechanical balance such that natural healing would occur in the foot and function (or performance) would improve.
3. I wanted to provide a good foundation of recovery for the foot such that one could participate in life while wearing a comfortable flip-flop - avoiding surgery or injections.
UTILIZING science to achieve my goals for all
Goal #1: The surface pattern of the footbed on The Healing Sole is designed to achieve the first goal; that is, it helps to reduce pain. It does so by harnessing the abilities of the nerve fiber endings in the skin on the sole of the foot. The surface texture is by design and offers a subtle augmentation to the overall structure and synergies of The Healing Sole Flip Flop that allow for pain reductions.
Goal #2: The firm structure of The Healing Sole helps to achieve the second goal of promoting better biomechanical balance by encouraging rest, offloading pressure, and increasing efficiency during walking. This furthers recovery and healing of your own tissues. Without the strength of the flip-flop, the stress-reducing rocker bottom shape wold not work as well.
Goal #3: By utilizing the anatomy and functional design of the foot when designing The Healing Sole, I was able to provide stretch, reduced overall stress, offloading, and comfort at the same time. Even better, each feature amplifies the effects of the other features, and this patented sole becomes even better for foot health and recovery.
How the Brain Processes Pain
Before I continue, let's take a step back and consider one of the ways the brain processes pain.
I think an everyday example will help to illustrate my point –
If you have ever cut your finger or had a pinprick, you may have noticed the instinct to grab your finger and press hard. This is a natural and effective pain remedy. By pressing the finger firmly at the site of the cut, you are stimulating the large mechanical receptors that sense pressure in the finger.
These fibers send an electric signal to the brain before the smaller pain fibers from the cut or the prick can. Once the brain receives the pressure signal, it will not acknowledge the actual pain signal as much. In this way you can make the cut feel better. All this without any chemicals!
You are essentially trading pressure and compression sensations for pain. Rubbing a cut or wound does the same thing in terms of controlling pain. Another example is using tapping or vibrations when giving a shot; the taps and vibrations make the brain feel the needle far less. These are neat trick that have already been built into the human body.
How Texture Can Help To Relieve Pain
The textured pattern we chose and incorporated into the shoe design is important. This design allows a multitude of small skin movements to occur on the sole of the foot with each step. Most shoe or insert surfaces are flat and of a uniform texture. Worse, most shoes tightly wrap the foot such that it cannot move relative to the footbed; The Healing Sole allows motion at the interface of the foot and the footbed. The texture applied to the footbed of this device promotes functional firing of Alpha-fibers described above.
Alpha-fibers are not pain receptors, rather they are nerve fibers that respond to changing pressures. The alpha-fibers are stronger than the pain fibers in the skin and under the skin of the foot. That is, the electric signal from the alpha-fibers will get to the brain more quickly than the pain fibers from the plantar fascia or other foot structures if appropriately stimulated. Once the brain receives the pressure signal from that mechanical receptor on the foot, in theory it will not ‘feel’ the signal from the pain fibers as much. The pressure effectively overrides or prevents the pain from being sensed by the brain.
This concept is also basically how a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit may work. The TENS unit will stimulate the non-nociceptive (non-pain) fibers with low voltage current. These fibers overpower or precede the stimulation of the brain by the nociceptive (pain) fibers.
The design of the footbed surface is thoughtful and meaningful; it is not mandatory and other surfaces are totally acceptable. However, it is my preference to use the textured footbed for those that are in pain. Many people prefer different materials and that is a good thing too. We recently released The Everett sandal that has a backstrap and a non-textured footbed for those that don't like a textured surface.
Combating Pain Responses With Structural Support
Years of study and training along with the practice of orthopedic surgery have made me believe that structure is better for a foot’s health than softness. That is, a structural insert, orthotic or shoe is better than a soft and squishy one over time. A stiffer shoe designed as The Healing Sole should promote movement and more use of the muscles of the foot.
The Healing Sole uses an EVA material of the appropriate durometer (or stiffness) that allows for proper structure for the foot but will give enough softness to provide good shock absorption, especially with the compression zone on the interior part of the heel. The structure of The Healing Sole also imparts a pressure sense to the rest of the sole of the foot(away from the plantar fascia insertion and ball of the foot), and again, this controls the brain’s response to pain. If the pressure from walking in the shoe is just right, then the pain fibers should be overcome.
It is my hope that by wearing The Healing Sole with the textured footbed, one can produce multiple and recurrent pressure signals to the brain that could overwhelm the pain signals from plantar fasciitis. The synergistic and functional design of The Healing Sole then goes on to promote natural healing and pain reduction in the foot. I have created an overall design with a footbed texture intended to provide synergistic pain reduction and to allow for natural healing to occur with proper wear time.
Meredith Warner, MD
Dr. Meredith Warner is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who practices out of her clinic, Warner Orthopedics & Wellness, in Baton Rouge, LA. She developed The Healing Sole as an alternative method to traditional and costly medical treatments for foot pain like plantar fasciitis and Morton's neuroma.