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