All About the Base
A Mini Guide to Fixing your Feet
Crooked toes, curly toes, bunions, low arches, high arches, plantar fasciitis, heel pain. Orthotics and ugly shoes. Feet that face away from the body, feet t hat face towards the body, or one of each.
Whatever shape your feet are in, the chances are you don’t give them much thought as you walk, run and stand through your day. You put them into riding boots, walking boots, flip flops, slippers, socks, high heels, no heels, trainers, etc . For a large part of the time the body seemingly ‘get’s away’ with this smorgasbord of foot abuse and you don’t experience pain or noticeable discomfort. It may even come as a surprise when your shoes start rubbing where they didn’t used to, or that you just can’t cope in heels as you once did; high heel hangover anybody?
But what happens when you do experience foot pain? What do you do then? And how can you avoid the pain in the first place?
This mini guide introduces you to some important facts about your feet and steps you can take to get them healthier and more comfortable.
Fun Foot Facts
- Your feet are attached to your body. Hard to believe, but true nonetheless.
- They are made up of 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 soft tissues
- All of these joints and soft tissues require movement to stay healthy
- Your feet are designed to be as dexterous as your hands
- Your toes should be able to move separate to your foot
- Your toes should be able to move separate from each other
- There is no part of your foot that is shaped like an arch; muscular activity (or lack of), stiffness and immobility has created the shape of your feet as they are today. Having an arch is similar to using the muscles of your forehead to raise your eyebrows.
- You should walk with the heel striking first, then the whole foot comes flat to the ground, then the heel is lifted off and lastly the front of the foot leaves the floor.
- Stiff feet mean stiff ankles, tight calves, sore knees, tight thigh muscles, poor hip mobility, pelvic tilt, bad back, poor upper body posture, tight neck and headaches.
Phew. Let’s look at how you can make your feet feel better.
The Toe Separating Socks
Modern living means that we cast our feet inside shoes from a very young age and that is where they stay.
There is no doubt that we require protective footwear, but by doing so we make it almost impossible for our feet to move and strengthen. Quite often modern, fashionable footwear has a narrow space for the toes and when you cram your feet into them for days, months or years, your toes can start to creep towards each other. The most obvious would be when the big toe starts looking at the pinky and that is when a bunion can begin.
To help offset some of this casting and cramming, wearing extraordinarily fashionable toe separation socks (as pictured below) can help to stretch the muscles between the toes, helping to restore the correct width and take the pressure off the site of a bunion.
Whether you have flat or high, stiff arches the likelihood is the muscles in this area are in need of some attention. An easy way of helping them out is to roll a tennis ball (or golf ball if they are not too sore) around the bottom of your foot, paying particular attention to your ‘arch’.
Or you can think about getting your feet exposed to some different textures. We live in a very safe, flat and smooth environment so we rarely expose the muscles to new stimulus which makes them weak and stiff.
I use these textured pods to stand on, they make the feet feel great!
Remember I said your toes should work both independently from your feet and from each other? Well this is your toe workout; something that isn’t really on your normal gym routine but one that will help with any current foot pain and to prevent any from occurring.
Standing with your pelvis stacked over your heels try to lift your toes without your foot coming off the floor.
Next, try to lift each toe on it’s own. Don’t panic if you can’t get them to work at first, keep trying and over time you will strengthen the muscles and the nerve communications to the point where you have toes that do as they are told!
A Note on Orthotics
Orthotics help to put your foot into a place where the loads will be distributed differently, ie taking the pressure off the current pain points. This can mean that immediate pain relief is experienced.
From a functional point of view, orthotics behave in a ‘casting’ way that is similar to shoes. They remove the foot’s ability to adjust according to reflex meaning that they do not allow the nerves, muscles and joints to strengthen. If you have been prescribed orthotics, I’m not telling you to throw them out, but take some time to do these foot exercises and you will help to keep your feet a functioning part of your body.
Try to have a place in the home that you can start walking bare foot whenever you can. You can then progress to walking outside in the garden. This will get all the small intrinsic muscles of your foot working and begin to strengthen them.
Stacking up the body weight is really important to the health of your feet. Your heel bone is the most suited to carrying the bulk of your weight, so get the pelvis and hips back over the heels. An important note here is when you wearing heels, of any height, it is impossible to get your pelvis and hips back over your heels. You immediately pitch over the front of your feet, reducing movement and therefore function of the entire foot, not to mention the pelvic tilt that positive heeled shoes create.
Try to make sure there is enough space for your toes; a wider shoe is always better.
It is so easy to neglect and trivialize the importance of the feet, but they really do have an impact on the rest of the body. The influence of this for riding may not be immediately obvious, but remember as ‘Dem Bones’ tells us so well:
“Toe bone connected to the foot bone
Foot bone connected to the leg bone
Leg bone connected to the knee bone…”
Help the feet and it will help everything else 🙂