Feet are important.
They are the foundation that we stand upon.
Your feet contain 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Not to mention nerves and blood vessels!
And yet we abuse them by wearing impractical shoes, restraining them, sitting too much, etc.
Problems with our feet involve more than just foot pain, they can impact the low back and even headaches.
Gait patterns (how we walk) are driven by the foot.
The gait cycle is broken down below, but, in essence the way that we walk is influenced by how we transfer weight from one foot to the other. It is important for us to see that the heel hits the ground first and then the bones of the foot lock together, rolling the toes down and bearing weight.
- The gait cycle starts with a Heel Strike. The heel of the reference foot is the first place to touch the ground.
- When the foot is flat, weight can be transferred to the referenced leg. In this part of the gait cycle, think about weight bearing, shock absorption, and moving forward.
- Mid Stance occurs when the body is balanced and in alignment on the reference foot.
- Just as the heel of the reference foot leaves the ground, the body is in terminal stance.
- Toe off occurs when the great toe of the reference foot leaves the ground and begins to swing. This is the beginning of the swing phase of the gait cycle.
- The swing phase is that part of the gait cycle during which the reference foot is not in contact with the ground and swings in the air. It constitutes about 40% of gait cycle. (wikipedia)
Feet have arches that act as springs to support our movement.
It is important to have your arches analyzed and evaluated- no matter their shape to ensure that your feet support your body. Think about it, have you ever been told you had flat feet or high arches? Take at look at the photos below and compare to your footprints in sand.
Often, high arch feet are very rigid and benefit from self-mobilization. Follow the steps below to mobilize your feet. By stimulating motion in a rigid foot, you can reduce foot pain and improve your biomechanics.
- Grasp your forefoot in both hands and perform a shearing motion between each of the toes
- Gently tug on each of your toes
- Using your whole palm, grasp the heel of your foot and firmly move it back and forth
Flat feet, on the other hand, generally need to be retrained to have more muscular coordination. For this, the “Short Foot” exercises tend to be very helpful.
- Try placing a kitchen towel on the floor and using your toes to pull it toward you
- Use your toes to pick up marbles off the floor
Either way your feet should be moveable and strong. Think of watching a toddler walk barefoot. You can see their toes grasp the ground, almost like they have suction cups on their tiny toes.
In this photo, see how the toddler is pulling up on their toes? This is especially noticeable when they are first learning to walk and balance.
Perhaps, one of the most important things to realize is how our shoes influence our feet.
Shoes are orthotics. They support our feet or force them into submission- like in high heels. High heels can do a lot of damage to our bodies- no matter how nicely they make our behinds look in skinny jeans.
Knees: increased pressure by 26% through the knee (knees are also affected posturally as described below)
Calves: tightens/shortens the calf muscles
Achilles (Calf tendon): Shortens and risks tearing when barefoot
“Pump Bump” or Haglund’s Deformity: bony enlargement on the back of the heel from rubbing/irritation
Posture: whole body mechanics are different with the sacrum rocked forward, increased strain through the knee, increased pressure in the lumbar spine, anterior head carriage, etc.
Ball of foot: pushes weight forward into an area that isn’t designed for it, creating metatarsalgia (the higher the heel, the more pressure through the forefoot)
Hammertoes/Hallux Valgus: from “squishing” the foot into the toebox
What does it all mean?
It is important to go barefoot sometimes! Especially in grass or sand where your muscles in the feet are forced to work.
If you are a runner or walker, get your shoes professionally fitted to be sure that they are correct for your gait and foot type.
For that matter, have your gait assessed to be sure that you are running properly and prevent future injury.
Have your Chiropractor assess your feet to ensure that they move properly and to help you decide if exercises, mobilizations, or orthotics are right for you.