Are We Taking The Health of our Feet for Granted?
Did you know there are over 7,000 nerve endings in each foot? Did you also know that your feet could affect what's going on in other areas of your body? We rely on our feet to provide so much for us, and we ultimately forget about them and take our feet for granted.
If there is improper biomechanics of your foot, then your knee is going to react in a certain way, which will trickle up into the pelvis, and if your pelvis is out of alignment then your spine will be the next and your shoulders will then feel the wrath. With that being said, it’s not always black and white – but there is definitely a correlation between foot pain and pain that ripples throughout your body.
If your foot alignment is out, you typically won’t really know this unless a professional tells you or if there is noticeable pain. So if there’s no pain, then we are usually surprised that the foot is out of alignment.
“There are two things you need to invest in - a good pair of shoes and a good mattress.”
You spend most of your time standing, walking, running and sleeping – so good shoes are really key investments into the overall health of your body.
Invest in Your Shoes
The condition your shoes are in will tell you a lot about the health of your feet.
Look at your shoes; is the heel worn down on the inside or the outside? There are two different kinds of imbalances that stem from ineffective shoes and more so muscle imbalances in your lower legs and feet. Pronation is when there is more pressure on the inside of the heel (your lateral arch may have weakened), whereas supination is when there is pressure on the outside of the foot; so when the shoe is worn down, you aren’t walking with proper alignment. It places a large strain on the muscles and tendons that stabilize the ankle.
Have you taken the Tennis Ball Test?
One of the simplest things you can do at home is to take a tennis ball, squish it under your foot and rock into it by putting pressure into the foot and into the ball. And then compare sides to see if they feel different from one another.
What this simple exercise does is it releases the stickiness of the muscles and connective tissues (plantar fascia) of the foot. It pushes liquid and fibres into a new configuration giving your foot more flexibility and mobility.
Here are a few easy exercises to try at home:
- Rock into the ball with the front of your foot then your heel and then go through the entire foot quite evenly, squish that tennis ball.
- Hop on one foot and then hop on the other and you’ll definitely feel a difference. The idea here is that you’ve created a bit more mobility, and will feel a bit springier – which works great for tired feet!
- If you look at a reflexology chart you will see that pressing down on the ball along the inner edge of the foot can be helpful for your organs: this area relaxes the stomach and improves circulation in this area. Stimulating the middle of the foot opens the energy pathways to the organs related to digestion, like the stomach, colon and intestines.
Pathologies: Bunions vs. Plantar Fasciitis: What’s the Difference?
A bunion is often caused by weak foot muscles and occurs when the bones of the foot no longer have enough room in your shoe due to the collapsing (flattening) of the transverse and medial arches of the foot (i.e.- the foot widens). The outward pressure causes the bones of the big toe (first phalanges) to curve in, leaving a boney outwards protrusion.
This may cause a lot of discomfort, or not, either way you will naturally avoid walking on that part of the foot properly and you will not get the proper “big toe push off” when you walk (gait) so you lose the natural spiralling movement of the foot. Once you lose this, your lower leg bones will move incorrectly which may cause knee pain. This misalignment might trickle up to your pelvis (…or is that perhaps where the problem started?)
Plantar Fasciitis or now often called Plantar Fasciosis is very painful and limits you from walking properly, because the pain is primarily around the heel of your foot, so it limits you from placing your foot down. And if you try to not put pressure down on that part of your foot, your lower leg bones are going to torque putting more pressure on the knee and then eventually the other side of the body.
And unevenness of muscle engagement could lead to discomfort in the back, which will manifest over time. The irritation or inflammation of the band of tough tissue connecting the heel bone to the toes is a very common injury for people between the ages of 40-60, but it plagues many younger athletes as well.
Needless to say, both plantar fasciitis and bunions are your body’s way of telling you that something is off. Adding exercises to your routine that focus on correcting limitations within your body as a whole can be very therapeutic in the short and long term.
How do I Take Care of my Feet?
It’s very easy to neglect the health of our feet – but I always want to emphasize that improper biomechanics of your foot will cause a ripple effect throughout your body.
The tennis ball release (above) is definitely helpful as well as attending regular classes.
Take an ELDOA class
I always like to start an ELDOA class by focusing on the feet because it grounds you. I will use everything from resistance bands, acuballs and tennis balls to place an area of emphasis on your feet. I like to draw attention to the lowest area on your body and ask, “how are your feet feeling” and “what are they doing?” This helps start off the class with some form of mobilization in the foot, and this reverberates up through the spine.
After an ELDOA class climb a flight of stairs – notice the easy recoil of the muscles and fascia of your legs. You are propelled upwards with ease. It’s what our body craves, this ease of movement. ELDOA may focus on your spine but the limbs are part of the whole and you feel that after a class right to your feet.
Try a Pilates Class
Pilates doesn’t just focus on your abdominal “core” but on your body’s entire core from head to toe. Move your feet and lower legs in ways that stimulate your body’s neuroreceptors to increase your awareness and proprioception and strengthen your entire body.
Reflexology is a powerful practice designed to stimulate nerve function, increase energy, boost circulation, and induce a deep state of relaxation, while stimulating the central nervous system. The soles of the feet are extremely sensitive to touch, but have a deep connection to your organs and multiple areas of your body.
Start from the feet up and see how incredible your entire body feels in just one Pilates and/or ELODA session!
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