Most people do not spend much time thinking about their feet, but our feet play an essential role in keeping our bodies functioning, healthy and feeling good! There are 26 bones, nearly 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, 33 articulations and thousands of nerve endings in your feet. Your feet by their form and function are incredibly sensory. When you block sensory information from your feet (by wearing shoes), you have trouble maintaining stability and balance. When your feet feel the ground, that information is communicated to the brain which allows for optimal movement. If the foot moves functionally, then the muscles start to work and your overall body feels better. Badly functioning feet are frequently associated with knee, hip, back and neck pain. Shoes strip your natural movement and make your feet weak. Shoes are seldom wide enough to allow the necessary freedom of movement to the tarsal and metatarsal bones that enables the foot to function, both as a shock absorber and a platform from which the legs must generate the necessary force to walk, run and jump. When shoes are narrow or laced too tightly, the metatarsal bones are jammed together, often pinching the nerves that run between the bones. When you are barefoot on the other hand, your brain receives better information. In no way, am I suggesting abandoning shoes completely and having a bonfire with your shoe collection, but to be aware and to implement spending less time in your shoes. Some tips for improvement in foot function: • Whenever you are sitting down practice spreading your toes as wide as you can and holding them open for five seconds at a time. • Play a game of foot marble! Dump some marbles on the ground and fill up a bowl of marbles with each foot. You may be shocked to find that your feet are so stiff and uncoordinated from wearing shoes all the time that you are unable to pick up a single marble. • Spend time doing primal movement pattern exercises (squat, hinge, lunge, twist, push, pull) being barefoot. • Wear shoes as little as possible allowing your feet to move as nature intended. The little bones of your feet love the chance to move, which helps keep the joints lubricated. When using your bare feet to walk and play, it keeps the small intrinsic muscles strong. • When you do wear shoes, don’t lace them too tightly and buy shoes that have room for your feet to move.
Jillian is a certified personal trainer and holistic coach through the C.H.E.K. Institute as well as a certified massage therapist.