Navigating the concrete jungle that is our world, our feet rarely get the chance to work how they were designed to work. They are trapped in rigid narrow footwear, traverse hard flat surfaces, and mostly walk in a straight line. The design of the human foot truly is amazing, the 26 bones, 42 muscles, 33 joints that make up the foot all work together to support the entire load of the body. Amongst many other important functions they act as shock absorbers protecting other joints and structures, allow for rapid force transference from the bigger more powerful muscles of the legs and hips into the ground allowing us to run and jump, and contain a huge amount of neurons that relay to the brain information supporting motor control and balance.
However, going back to what I mentioned earlier, the feet are often not allowed to be feet! Ideally your feet need to walk barefoot, on soft uneven surfaces to maintain the strength and flexibility they were designed with. Even just barefoot walking will suffice, however due to our environment and societal norms our feet are denied this opportunity. Plantar fasciitis is a common issue associated with the feet, however most don’t realise that poor foot health can lead to a host of musculoskeletal issues, like knee pain and lower back pain. When the arches of the feet are not supported by strong muscles and tendons, or the feet have become immobile, this will effect all the other joints, muscles, and tendons above them. For example, if the arches of your feet cave in (ie flat feet) the chain reaction may go something like this: the ankle everts (rolls in), the knee goes into a valgus position (knee cave in), the hip internally rotates effecting the pelvis, which intern effects the movement of the lower back.
As a Myotherapist I see people with many issues and presentations, and in so many cases correcting the function of the feet has a huge impact on their overall function. In some cases the issue cannot be resolved without addressing the feet. Rather than rely on supportive shoes or orthotics to do the work the feet should be doing, a targeted strengthening and foot health program, designed for each individual, can yielded great results and grant people freedom from band-aid measures and reliance on external supports such as orthotics.
Written by Dan Hammond, Myotherapist (Bachelor Health Science – Myotherapy) and Master Functional Trainer (CertIV Fitness). 2018
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