We are born barefoot and are genetically built to stand, walk and run with our feet interacting with the ground. Our feet are built to be both shock absorbers and rigid levers for us to push off with. They have allowed human beings to navigate over uneven ground, hard, flat planes and soft, spongy meadows for thousands of years. It is only relatively recently that we started flattening out our world with concrete and supporting and cushioning our feet with fancy shoes and orthotics. The feedback our bodies get from our feet is a crucial part of posture, balance and movement development, but we tend to cut that off almost immediately by putting our children in stiff, cushy running shoes as soon as they can walk. As people grow up, the role of work, fashion, and sport dictate their footwear choices and it usually comes at the cost of body awareness, foot strength and balance. As a result, it is almost the norm for people’s feet to slowly deform over time and develop bunions, hammer toes, fallen arches and plantar fasciitis. Ultimately footwear choices become less and less about fashion and more and more about cushioning and supportive comfort as we age. This path is a major source of balance and pain issues throughout life.
The mechanics of our feet are closely tied to those of our hips. Tightness or weakness in one will directly affect the other, which ultimately affects the whole body. There are 3 main arches to the foot. The main one being the medial longitudinal arch, this is the part that will pronate (flatten) or supinate (arch up/over). There is also a smaller lateral arch along the outside of the foot, but the most overlooked arch is called the transverse and is suppose to dome up the front part of the foot. Read More
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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The goal of standing is to vertically stack your spine with a gentle S-curve from your tail bone up to the base your skull. If you look at your side profile, you should be able to draw a straight line down from your earlobe, through your shoulder, the mid line of your torso, your hip, knee and ankle.
This is my Pulp Fiction video/post (the video captures the movements you need to learn). I am showing you the ending first, so you know what you are working towards. You may find yourself coming back to this frequently and will progressively find it easier and easier to accomplish. To start with, standing the way I am describing may feel weird and be really hard, but will look a lot more normal than it feels. It will challenge everything you are bad at and your brain’s perception of what is vertical. A mirror to look at your side profile can be an important tool to help you see what I am showing you, but you need to learn to progressively feel it instead of having to see it.
Step 1 is to learn to use your diaphragm to support your torso upward and stop leaning backwards. Imagine there are two half balloons inside the lower part of your ribcage that you can inflate by taking a deep breath into your lower back ribs. This should lengthen and stretch the lower part of your thoracic spine. It may also feel like it tips you forward. This is the part of your back that was accommodating your neck, but we are going to try and stop that. If you look in the mirror, you will likely see that it is your head that is forward and that your trunk is now actually quite vertical instead of tipped backward. Read More