Here’s a question, are feet important? My answer, 100% yes. Feet are the foundation of the human body, they connect us to the Earth and enable us to move. Like any foundation our feet are designed to support the weight and structure of the entire body, they also provide balance, propel us, act as amazing shock absorbers, and adapt to walking surfaces in order for our survival. Here are some facts:
- The amount of force the feet endure on a normal day of walking equates to the weight of a fully loaded cement truck (over 3 tonnes)
- We have 200 bones in the body, 25% of them from the ankle down.
- Around 25% of muscles and motor nerves are dedicated to the feet.
- The pressure on the feet when running can equal as much as four times the runner’s bodyweight.
- Feet are an excellent mirror for general health. Conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, nerve and circulatory disorders initially show symptoms in the feet.
- Any change or problem in the foot dynamics or aliments can be the first sign of structural or medical issues that seriously affect the rest of body, especially the ankle, knee, hip and lower back.
Pretty impressive! The design and complexity of the foot illustrates the remarkable adaptability of this limb and how valuable it is for movement and survival. However, without knowing it the majority of people mistreat their feet resulting in these amazing limbs becoming useless slabs of meat – are you one of them?
As a movement and health practitioner, the amount of time focused on increasing the mobility of the ankle/foot and improving circulation or stimulating of the foot is common and ever increasing. In 2014/2015, New Zealand had over 472,000 individuals receive physiotherapy treatments! I can guarantee over three quarter of the visits were a consequence of the foot and ankle tissue being underused then overloaded from exercise or from daily activities such as walking and standing. My theory behind this is that our feet and ankles are no longer qualified to support the demands of our lifestyles. Simply put, our constant need to be comfortable (wearing shoes and sitting down all day) combined with latest fashion trends are crippling our feet, creating a misalignment throughout the body and resulting in chronic degeneration of tendons and ligaments = MORE INJURIES .
Common problems associated with feet
- Flat foot
- Foot posture problems
- Inflexible big toe
- Sesamoiditis = Painful sensation in the ball of foot behind the big toe (inflammation around the sesamoid bone tendon and ligaments)
- Rigid foot
- Plantar fasciitis = Inflammation of the fascia on the bottom of the foot
- Poor circulation
- Inflexible ankles
- Tight or torn calf muscles
- Tight or torn Achilles tendon
- Shin splints
As children we are born with perfectly free and functional feet (unless suffering from certain diseases or musculoskeletal issues) that tend to develop 3 arches that help support the foot and body:
- Medial longitudinal arch (inside of foot)
- Lateral longitudinal arch (outside of foot)
- Anterior transverse arch (across top of the foot)
These beautiful tiny feet are then unfortunately caged into shoes from the moment we begin to walk. They are sentenced to remain in these isolation chambers for the majority of their lives. Today there is a shoe for every occasion, sport and even for indoors! Here is the breakdown of my theory:
- Wear shoes all the time.
- Toes and feet are captured in a shoe that suffocate the foot and squish the toes together.
- Foot becomes dumb from lack of stimulation of unchallenged surfaces.
- Proprioceptors (giving information to the body) unable to work effectively, confusing the body.
- Foot has nothing to do and becomes lazy, toes and arches become compromised and collapse the medial arch (middle arch) causing pronation of foot (foot falls inwards).
- Tibia collapsed creating tibial torsion
- Medial rotation of the Patella (knees turn in) stresses out the ligaments and muscles around that area (knock knees)
- The femur (thigh bone) medially rotates (turns inwards)
- Hip joint becomes externally rotated (faces outwards).
- Glutes stick out and struggle to do their job of protecting the Lumbar spine (lower back) which is now arched = lower back pain and nerves are compressed
- Abdominals (stomach muscles) become stretched out and weakened
- Thoracic spine (upper back) is unable to move freely, losing our ability to twist (super important to humans)
- Neck issues created from bio-mechanical misalignment
- Head position is altered causing headaches and pain.
My next blog will talk about the importance of going barefoot and how it can help rejuvenate your overall health.