Feet: What are they good for?

Every day, we move through life with little consideration of our feet. We cram our feet into pointy shoes, high heels, and ill-fitting footwear for the sake of fashion. Why is it that we want our feet to look good, but don’t care if they feel good?

Although most of us suffer from some form of pain or discomfort in our feet, like plantar fasciitis, bunions and arthritis, it is often ignored in the interest of getting on with life’s demands, like running to the next meeting, or standing for long periods. In actual fact, the feet are the most important aspect of movement, posture, balance, control and coordination. This post will explore the importance of our feet, and some easy strategies for eliminating pain, while improving movement through the legs.

Feet, Feet, Fabulous Feet!
Each of our feet is made of 26 small bones, 33 individual joints, over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments that help us stand, walk, jump, and move throughout life in almost every form of movement. Even when we are not using our feet specifically, they articulate and move in reaction to various gestures and behaviors in other parts of our body, like when we wiggle and curl our toes when concentrating, tap our foot to music, have an animated conversation, or do a full-body stretch.

Just like that song we sang as children, the ankle bone’s connected to the knee bone, the knee bone’s connected to the hip bone, and so on, the muscular pattern we adapt in our feet follows all the way up through the knee, hip, spine, even shoulder and neck. Imagine how this pattern is negatively affected when our feet hurt and fail to move with ease.

Over time if our feet do not move efficiently, they can just stop moving. Toe joints can become fused and no longer articulate as we walk. With gravity pushing down on our feet with the full weight of our bodies, we see the form of the ankle changing to fall inward, the arches fall, and the toes becoming disfigured with bunions and arthritis. There are easy ways to prevent these debilitating changes as we age. Incorporating a few movements into your usual routine could add years of activity to your life.

Get those feet moving!
Here are just a few simple tips to keep your feet happy. First, take off your shoes and socks, and stand on a hard, flat surface. Take a moment to just feel your feet, legs, hips, and back. Notice if your feet feel different from each other. Do you bear more weight on the toes or on the heel, or on the inside or outside edge of your foot? Once you have a good idea of where you are starting, move to Step 1. Be patient, these movements can be deceptively challenging to start, but soon your foot will be moving with ease.

  1. Lift all of your toes into the air, leaving the balls of your feet planted. Reach your big toe and pinky toe as far away from each other as possible as you splay all of your toes wide. Place your big toe and pinky toe back down wide onto the floor, following with the rest of your toes. Lift all your toes again and repeat the same movement 5 times.
  2. Lift your toes into the air again, but this time, just lower the big toe onto the floor. Lift it back up, and lower all of the other toes simultaneously leaving the big toe lifted. Repeat this action 5 times back and forth.

Now, rest your feet and check in again with how your feet feel. Are they flatter, weighted differently, feeling active?

With a tennis ball or weighted yoga ball, place this under the ball of one of your feet just a few inches in front of your standing foot.

  1. With your heel planted on the ground, roll the front of your foot sideways over the ball as the outside edge of your foot touches the ground. Return to start and roll your foot over until the side of your big toe touches the ground. Repeat this 5 times in each direction.
  2. Roll and arch your foot forward over the ball until your toes and balls of your foot touch the floor. Roll back until your heel touches the floor. Repeat this 5 times in each direction.
    Repeat steps 1 and 2 on the other side.

Come back to standing on both feet, and sense how your feet feel different.

These movements can be used throughout the day, and before and after exercise. This quick release will liberate the joints of the toes, improve articulation of the foot, and mobilize both joints of the ankle.

A highly-trained movement practitioner can provide valuable tips and tricks to help you eliminate foot pain and get you back to the activities you love.

Written by

Holly Wallis, Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist, PMA®-CPT
Director of US Operations, Body Harmonics Pilates & Movement Institute

Studio Director, ReActive Movement, 6200 LaSalle Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

© 2015. All rights reserved. 


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