You may go to the gym to strengthen your chest, back, legs or core, but what about your feet? Your feet end up being held hostage in a stinky pair of shoes, unable to move or breathe all day and then you expect them to hold you up while you walk, run or play sports. They are pretty durable, but will eventually begin to break down, hurt and even deform if you don’t give them a chance to work properly with the rest of your body. Your feet are your body’s suspension; they act as both shock absorbers and rigid levers to help propel you when walking and running. Losing awareness of your feet leads to poor movement patterns, poor posture and inevitably pain.
Imagine you have a job that requires you to wear tight leather socks on your hands all day. Now imagine the palm side of the sock has a firm plank on it so you can’t flex your hand to properly grab anything, but you still have to use your hands all day. What do you think would happen to your hands over time? They would turn into deformed, weak clubs like most people’s feet end up looking like. You would lose the dexterity in your fingers while your forearms, wrists and shoulders would get all tight from compensating all day; this is what effectively happens to most peoples toes, ankles and hips from wearing stiff shoes all day, but your feet have much more of an impact on your posture than your hands ever would.
Four facts about your feet that are hard to argue with:
- You were not born with shoes on…evolution designed your feet to function barefoot
- Your feet’s arches are designed to be held up by the muscular tension holding your foot bones together, not by external “arch supports” pushing them up from the bottom
- You likely wear shoes most of the time and walk mainly on very flat surfaces
- You are unlikely to stop wearing shoes, but would like to keep your feet warm, healthy, strong and protected
So you will probably agree that your feet would be happiest and strongest if you were barefoot all day walking around an uneven meadow, but practically that is not going to happen, so what do you do to keep your feet strong, living in reality? Read More
Barefoot running has got a lot of press since Christopher McDougall released his book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.
(click the above picture for details)
A great book and amazing story that is worth the read even if you’re not a runner. This book has lead to a paradigm shift in the running shoe world and is slowly creeping it’s way into the normal shoe world. If you are not familiar with my stance on shoes, have a look at my articles:
Shoes: Good support or coffins for your feet
Why Feet Hurt
Movement in general is a set of skills that you acquire through trial, error and practice throughout your life. Walking and running are fundamental movement skills that we develop from a young age, but the thing that most people don’t understand is that just because you can walk and run, doesn’t mean you are doing it very well. The most important tools our bodies have, that gives us the unique ability to walk and run upright, is our feet; covering them up with heavy, clunky, confining shoes most of your life will almost guarantee that you walk and run poorly and inevitably develop pain and deformity.
Although I think the barefoot running movement is great, what really needs to happen is a barefoot lifestyle movement. You need to walk before you can run and stand before you can walk. What you choose to put on your feet will affect all three of these skills. You spend far more time in a day standing and walking than you do running so the best cross training you can do for running is to keep your feet active and in tune with the ground when ever you are vertical.
I will preface this post by saying the best thing I ever did for my feet, my posture and my pain was to stop wearing traditional shoes. I am very hypermobile and have very high arches in my feet and throughout my athletic life I have been slowed down by foot pain and blood blisters on the balls of my feet and big toes (sorry for the details). I had tried all different types of shoes, orthotics and tapes, so in 2008 I decided to start working in only socks most of the day and never turned back. Going barefoot taught me a lot about my own body and how I was creating my own hip and back pain. The feedback I was getting from my feet helped me become aware that I was standing entirely on the outsides of my feet and how that related to the tightness and aching in my hips. From the ground up, I progressively became aware of how one part of my body was affecting the other and I have been able to successfully strengthen my feet, loosen my hips and eliminate almost all of the chronic issues I was having.
You will find the Why Feet Hurt video at the bottom of this post.
Being a physical therapist, seeing 14 people a day with different body and foot types, has allowed me to test my posture and movement principles within myself and on my clients. I have helped a lot of people discover how their feet affect their bodies and their bodies affect their feet. I have learned that how you hold your upper body can be the root cause of your bunions and how you use your hips can dictate if you pronate or supinate in your feet. There is very much a trickle up and a trickle down effect on posture, alignment and movement. Read More
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