What Your Body Wants You to Know: Your Feet Need Attention Too!

feet_flickr_joshme17

When was the last time you gave your feet any consideration?

 
In each foot and ankle, you have 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. There’s a lot going on in there, yet we often ignore them unless they are in pain.

What’s going on with our feet can directly affect the rest of our bodies.When I see a massage client for the first time, one of the things I assess is how he stands and moves. We might not pay much attention to them, but our feet are connected to the rest of us. How you stand can have an impact all the way up to that pain in your neck. Proper joint alignment throughout the body is essential to pain free movement, so if things are off at the foundational level, we’re likely to have problems all over.

For example, new running shoes—or running shoes that don’t fit right—can result in foot and ankle alignment problems as well as back pain. Many runners will also battle plantar fascitis from time to time; this painful condition sets in when the fascia (a type of connective tissue that wraps around the muscle) in the feet becomes painful and inflamed.

A few things you can do to show your feet a little love:

1. Trim your toe nails.

Seriously. You don’t need a pedicure, but trimming your toenails regularly will help make them less susceptible to athlete’s foot and prevent blisters on your toes. On that note, keep on top of blisters, athlete’s foot and other skin conditions on your feet!

2. When you buy sneakers, have a gait analysis done.

Most reputable running stores will offer this service, and often for free. They will take a look at exactly how you run or walk and recommend shoes that will stabilize your foot correctly. Or if you are feeling curious and wanting to try something new…

3. Consider “barefoot” technology shoes.

Proponents of barefoot running claim that this minimalist shoe style is much healthier for the feet, and ultimately the health of the spine. Vibram Fivefingers are a popular brand that has many converts singing their praises. Ultimately, the benefits here may be influenced by the wearer’s previous foot issues—or lack of them. Transitioning to this type of shoe needs to be done gradually, as you will rely on different muscle groups than with a more traditional sneaker. Long term, they are reported to have fewer incidences of plantar fascitis and other chronic foot problems.

4. Get a massage; if possible, choose one with a practitioner that is trained in acupressure or reflexology.

It’s fascinating to look at the reflexology maps of the feet and see how these areas we barely stop to look at have so many correlations to the rest of our health. Similarly, while acupressure meridians run throughout the body, there are several helpful points in the feet to relieve stress and fatigue. (There’s a reason a foot massage feels so amazing; it really is improving your overall health.)

5. Stretch your feet!

This is one of those “you’ll thank me later” sorts of things.

  • With bare feet, start on all fours and then sit back on your heels, with your toes tucked under
  • As you sit back, the weight of your body will stretch the muscles and fascia in your feet
  • For many of us, this is initially uncomfortable, as these muscles get tight from time to time
  • Try this at least once a day to allow the tissue to open up
  • If you have ongoing foot problems, ask your doctor before adding this stretch to your routine

 

Photo credit: Flickr / joshme17

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Comments

  1. Fantastic stuff Kate. People don’t realise what an incredible feat (sorry!) of engineering the human foot is. I spent years with knee, then hip, then lower back pain, all of which were eventually addressed by dealing with issues and weakness in the feet. My own approach and practice has changed profoundly since I started working from the ground up.

    • Kate Bartolotta says:

      Yes! I broke my leg several years ago and still have issues on that side. It’s all connected, and being mindful of all of those connections from head to toe make a big difference in our health.

  2. Yes indeed – get a pair of boots that fit, or two…
    In my case 4E isnt easy to find–Redwings and about 1/2 my knee complaints have gone away…

  3. Great tips and much needed because I think foot health is an ignored aspect of healthy living and taking care of yourself.

  4. Jameseq says:

    ah summertime, the time when we get to show how footwear has deformed and enfeebled our feet and toes.
    im sure 100yrs from now, people will ask why we corsetted our feet and penises

    penises:

    [ yeah this is a repost:
    i say most male underwear is infact feminine. the crotch space is minimal, and i believe is the major cause of the curvatures we see in penises. briefs or figurehugging type boxer shorts dont have enough space in the crotch for men.

    ive recently wondered about nappies(diapers) also, about the groin space there. and also about the placement of the penis after nappychanging. those who have or had penises i suspect are more likely to pay attention to correct placement (very distracting to have the penis in the wrong position too).
    during the penis growth spurt phase of puberty. tight underwear is particularly harmful on boys, as it will bend a flaccid penis over the scrotum, if the penis overhangs sac. for flaccid penises that dont overhang, the restraining fabric in addition to causing curvature will retard growth of the penis. in both cases the penis if tightly compressed, will take the shape over the two testicles.
    so the penis takes the shape caused by the pressure of tight underwear. just as the toes take the shape of tight footwear – and toes have bones in them, penises do not.

    not forgetting western style trousers that ride into the crotch for men when sitting, and trap the penis (while women have low crotch and wide thigh trouser options)

    remedy: loose and preferably lowcrotch boxer shorts for boys]

    —–

    part 2 of 4
    the foot:
    I think part of the reason that men’s toes generally tend to be worse than women’s, is that men’s footwear is generally too narrow for men’s feet.
    anyway, the never shoed foot has the splayed shape of a duck’s foot.

    feet that have never worn shoes
    http://patrick-fitness.com/2011/04/07/a-picture-to-prove-my-point/
    http://www.readingonthetoilet.com/horror-modern-shoes/
    Fotos of feet

    p79 has a photo of straight energised toes on a foot that has never worn modern footwear
    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=8tJXAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA79#v=onepage&q&f=false
    Quarterly Bulletin of the Medical Department of Washington University, Volume 4

    On education [ed. by G. Nicholson].1805 P23
    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2GMEAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA23#v=onepage&q&f=true

    tinually pressed and palsied by this improper casework. Nature has designed the toes to be as moveable as the fingers Examine the feet of a peasant’s child who has never worn shoes Instead of the toes being crooked or bent inwards to a point they are straight as their fingers and the inner side of the foot forms nearly a straight line from the heel to the tip of the first toe Those unfortunate beings who are born without hands learn to perform with the toes the most astonishing tasks to write and cut pens to sew to draw in short to supply almost completely the want of their hands Our feet would be more comfortable easy and useful if we were not at the greatest pains to deprive them of their elasticity and vigour The numerous nerves crossing them in every direction plainly evince that nature has endowed them with peculiar powers of which we can scarcely form an adequate conception Why are mankind determined to con ert the natural shape of the foot into a geometrical figure or why

    P76 to 110. Section on comparing never-shoed feet to shoed feet. Includes how much compression a never shoed foot can take to fit into shoes on p88, pain measurement, deformity after few months, talks about degree of prehensility.
    the famous photos of the shoed v unshoed foot comes from pgs78,81 of this book

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=8tJXAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA76
    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=8tJXAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA88
    Quarterly Bulletin of the Medical Department of Washington University, Volume 4

    so why do the lasts, moulds of the foot that shoe manufacturers construct shoes upon, look so different).
    why is most male or female footwear not splayed like this (kuhmaul, cowmouth, bearpaw unisex shoe)? http://pinterest.com/pin/176484879119590115/

  5. Jameseq says:

    part 3 of 4
    I wonder if the loss of foot, ankle, toe articulation and muscle strength cause by footwear, particularly corsetting footwear, impacts on elite athletes making them slower. And how it affects the rest of us.

    http://phys.org/news175332184.html
    Twenty thousand years ago six male Australian Aborigines chasing prey left footprints in a muddy lake shore that became fossilized. Analysis of the footprints shows one of them was running at 37 kph (23 mph), only 5 kph slower than Usain Bolt was traveling at when he ran the 100 meters in world record time of 9.69 seconds in Beijing last year’
    __
    http://phys.org/news183817654.html
    Scientists have found that those who run barefoot, or in minimal footwear, tend to avoid “heel-striking,” and instead land on the ball of the foot or the middle of the foot. In so doing, these runners use the architecture of the foot and leg and some clever Newtonian physics to avoid hurtful and potentially damaging impacts, equivalent to two to three times body weight, that shod heel-strikers repeatedly experience.
    __
    http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/
    This website has been developed to provide an evidence-based resource for those interested in the biomechanics of different foot strikes in endurance running and the applications to human endurance running prior to the modern running shoe.

    This website provides information on:
    Human evolution and endurance running
    Foot and lower limb biomechanics when running in shoes
    Foot and lower limb biomechanics when running barefoot or in minimal shoes
    Biomechanical differences between forefoot striking and heel striking
    Tools to help assess potential benefits of learning to forefoot strike
    Transitioning safely to forefoot striking barefoot or in minimal footwear

    —–
    part 4 of 4
    Clips of normal foot, toe, ankle articulation in people who use their feet because they are armless:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChVTj9L3dRQ
    Separate toe articulation (i do not know if this person is armless)
    __
    Sarah Kovac
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZH7WSM4bNY
    Note ability to bend toes 90degrees
    __
    Adriana Macías
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xp-t7gDwap4
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYWRRf2Dsa8
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lEPkX41I3k

    The degree of foot, ankle, and toe articulation is amazing. shows how deformed and wizened our unused lower hands are. I had to find these again, as i could not find the links i thought i had saved. There was one clip where adriana grabbed a microphone and adjusts it. I had to rewind to see it was infact her foot grabbing the mike. amazing.

    —–

    I was once a pianist, so i can bend my ring fingers 90 degrees while the little or the middle fingers barely move. Most other people can not. So i had wondered about the ability to move the individual toes. the fused tendons or ligaments argument for toes, is the same iirc for the ring and the middle finger.
    So Im surprised and a little disappointed that individual toe movement isnt seen in the clips ive posted. as the people in the clips have been armless since birth. That would suggest that this is rarely possible.

    it is amazing how much functionality is lost by constraining footwear. yes, toes and feet too need good exercise.
    The increasing attention to minimalist footwear could even make feet could become a class marker(it is an extremely slim possibility). Can one afford footwear that does not deform the foot? Does one not have to wear protective footwear? The degree of toe/foot/ankle articulation, of foot beauty, of toe straightness and liviliness, the softness of the skin and the soles – a measure, a marker of wealth, and leisure.

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