By: Natalie Wallace, nutritionist
Feet are important for so many things. They are the base of our entire structure. When something is off with them, it is likely that something is affected above (which is the entire body). It’s crucial that the feet are both mobile and strong so they can support the basic movements we do everyday. However, the feet are easily forgotten and left unnoticed, tortured in the confined darkness of shoes. This article will explain why issues of the feet exist in the 21st century and how you can prevent injuries and limitations.
In the world we live in today, we abuse our feet. Every morning we wake up and before we head out the door we bind them up them in shoes — an invention meant to protect them but they tend to do more harm than good. The shoe may fit well (and if it doesn’t that’s another story), but the feet are not permitted to function as they were intended when imprisoned and tied up in shoes. The feet and toes are designed to grip the ground below them and bend in order to propel you forward when you walk. This is highly unlikely to happen in shoes, seeing as our toes are not able to spread out (and are in fact squished together) and our feet are literally distanced from the ground, sometimes unable to bend. If we wear shoes with any type of heel — from men’s and women’s dress shoes to stilettos — the calves are maintaining a shortened position, causing them to tighten. Over time, this can lead to restrictive issues, from aches and pains to limited mobility.
Did you know that a quarter of our bones are in our feet, along with 33 total joints, and 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments combined? For two relatively small body parts, there is a lot of anatomy found in the feet. The front of our feet contain five phalanges (toes) and five metatarsals (longer bones before the toes). The middles of the foot forms the arch and contains the three cuneiform bones, cuboid bone, and the navicular bone. The back side of our feet form the heel and ankle, comprised of the heel bone (calcaneus) and the talus bone. The talus supports the bottom of the lower leg bones, the tibia and fibula, forming the ankle. The muscles, ligaments and tendons run along the back and front surfaces of the feet, making it possible for motion and balance.
This amazing structure of our feet separates us from other animals. Think of standing upright, running, walking, jumping, practically anything we do. The feet are the foundation for human movement. All of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that allow our feet to function are surrounded by fascia. You’ve probably heard of plantar fasciitis — a fairly common issue of the feet resulting from tightness that originates in the plantar fascia. It’s very painful to experience but can be relieved naturally through self myofascial release (SMR) on the bottoms of the feet and the calves. In order to maintain and promote flexibility, mobility, and strength in your feet, and prevent things like plantar fasciitis, it’s crucial that we value the feet. SMR is the number one natural mobility remedy, ensuring that the tissues holding the feet together remain pliable and resilient. Z-health drills such as toe pulls, ankle tilts and metatarsal rolls are another great way to keep the feet healthy and flexible. Check out the Mobility for Ankles & Feet video series on our YouTube channel to see a demonstration. Lastly, make it a daily goal to use the feet! Walk for 20 to 30 minutes (outdoors if possible) in the least restrictive shoes you own (or barefoot if possible on a soft surface). Research on the 3 day effect shows that nature is a great stress antidote, which can only help in your efforts to keep your feet healthy.
Attention to the feet is easily forgotten. We live in a modern, busy, fast-paced world in which many other things tend to get prioritized above our physical health, let alone the state of our feet. Yet, the state of our feet dictates the state of our legs, our hips, our back, our head, and essentially all of us. Without our physical health, chances are we aren’t performing our best in life, whether it be work or play. So pay your due concern to those tied up, squished up feet. Set them free when you can and ground them to the earth. Spread your toes and grip the ground. Grab a lacrosse ball and release the tension. Be proactive about your feet and you’ll likely feel benefits throughout your entire body!