The human foot is a biological masterpiece. Its strong, flexible and functional design enables it to do its job well and without complaint, as long as you take care of it and don't take your feet for granted. The human foot is complex, containing within its relatively small size twenty-six bones (the two feet contain a quarter of all the bones in the body), thirty-three joints and a network of more than 100 tendons, muscles and ligaments, to say nothing of blood vessels and nerves. This combination of networks coordinate together so that we can be mobile on our feet. Our feet are vital to health and mobility. They carry us an average of 115,000 miles in a lifetime. Over an average day of walking our feet can be required to bear several tons of impact. This helps explain why your feet are more subject to injury than any other part of your body. Of course, as we get older, these problems can get worse. For older people, foot problems can mean the difference between needing institutional care and being able to live at home.
If your feet are out of alignment, it can cause problems throughout your body’s skeletal structure. For example, if the arch is fully collapsed or rolls inward, you have flat feet. This means that you’re missing crucial arch support. Without proper functioning feet, one’s walking pattern will be compromised and can lead to more serious foot, ankle, knee, hip and spine problems. Excessive pronation is one of the most common causes of knee pain in joggers.
In my studio, we have become more and more aware of foot problems. If you’ve ever experienced a broken toe, you realize just how much you use your toes. People who have suffered from plantar fasciitis know how painful normal life becomes. The plantar fascia is a very thick band of tissue that covers the bones on the bottom of the foot. When this fascia become inflamed, it becomes painful, making walking difficult. If you don't treat plantar fasciitis right away, it may become a chronic condition. If left untreated, you may develop foot, knee, hip and back problems because of the way plantar fasciitis changes the way you walk. With proper treatment, most people are better in 9-12 months. Who wants that kind of pain and inconvenience for 9-12 months?
I have a client who runs the December Honolulu marathon. When I asked him how he did, he said, “Great ‘til the last 8 km where my foot totally swelled up and I just barely hopped across the finish line.” After he shared his experience with myself and the class, I decided to dedicate some time in that class to do some simple foot exercises. This beautiful, outwardly healthy, relatively strong and flexible 26-year-old male could barely spread his toes apart or move his ankles. No wonder his foot gave out on him.
If you are experiencing discomfort or pain from your feet, please seek the attention of a podiatrist, and don’t wait. In the meantime, avoid having to see a podiatrist by not taking your feet for granted. Practice some foot and toe intelligence with these simple foot exercises so that you can prevent injury, doctor’s visits, and potentially months of life altering discomfort.
1. Ankle dorsiflexion: pull the top of your foot towards your knee
2. Ankle plantar flexion: pull the heel towards the back of your knee
3. Ankle inversion: pull your instep towards the inside of your knee
4. Ankle eversion: pull the outside of your foot towards the outside of your knee
5. Spread toes equally
6. Lift the big toe and lower the other 4 toes, then lower the big toe and lift the other 4 toes
7. Wrap toes around a bar and release
And after you’ve exercised your feet, exercise your charm on a loved one for a foot massage. Now that’s what I call caring for your feet!
For more information, got to www.sculptpilates.ca