As a physical therapist, I have seen and touched a lot of feet. Thus, I can verify that most people don’t spend a lot of time and attention on that region of their body. Alas! If only the masses new how important, how crucial, how integral our foot health is to our overall health.
Allow me to further elucidate…
Feet = Foundation
We wouldn’t expect a house or building with a weak, impaired foundation to remaining standing. Why do we expect that of our bodies?
Feet are the foundation. If they’re weak and unhealthy, every joint further up the chain is going to be affected. Sometimes immediately, sometimes years down the road. Knee, hip, and low back problems can often be traced back to the feet. Even shoulder problems can originate in the feet!
We need a foundation that is strong, sensitive, adaptable, and clean (for the love of all physical therapists who have to touch them). Don’t forget about the toe nails!
You Shoes, You Lose
What we’re putting our feet into often causes more harm than good.
Extreme arch support. Narrow toe boxes. Super thick soles. Heel lifts.
When we take away the need for foot musculature to do any work (i.e. by putting them is super cushy, supportive contraptions), what we get is weak foot muscles, weak arches, weak ankles, injuries and pain.
When we put our feet into contraptions that aren’t shaped like our feet (i.e. shoes that are too tight, too small, have narrow toe boxes and raised heels), what we get is misshapen feet (think bunions, blisters, hammer toe).
Constantly being wrapped up and cushioned causes our feet to become less sensitive and less sentient. They go numb. They lose awareness. They become dumb. You don’t want dumb feet.
Allowing our foot to move and feel as they were designed to improves the nervous system connections between our feet and our brain which results in improved proprioceptive ability (being aware of position in relation to our body and the environment), balance and overall health.
Being stuck in ill-fitting shoes in not good for circulation. When circulation is compromised we get skin and nail issues and pain.
Make Feet Sexy Again
Here are some easy peasy ways to improve foot health and thus, whole body health:
Go without shoes when possible
Definitely when you’re at home and hopefully, occasionally outside if you have access to clean, safe outdoor spaces.
Bonus points if you can expose your feet to a variety of surfaces and textures throughout the week!
Massage those puppies! (And by puppies, I mean your feet)
Before bed, spend 2-3 minutes per foot, starting at your toes and working backward toward the ankle.
Think loving, healing thoughts about your feet during the massage and thank them for all their hard work and support.
There are many acupuncture points that begin and end in the feet so if you feel any sore spots spend extra time there to free up any stuck energy (you’re likely to find some stuck energy in the web spaces between the toes—squeeze and massage these areas regularly!)
Keep nails trimmed and free of dirt
This tip is obvious, yet so many people don’t do it.
Exercises for foot and toe strength and agility:
While seated or standing, practice lifting up the big toe while keeping the four others flat on the ground. Try 10 reps then switch feet.
Next, keep the big toe flat on the ground while lifting up the other four together. Try 10 reps then switch feet.
Repeat every day (or 2-3x/day if you have flat arches)
With both feet resting on a small towel, use all your toes to start scrunching the towel toward you. Once you’ve scrunched as much as the towel will allow, straighten it back out and repeat 2 more times.
Marble (or other object) pick-up
Place some small objects, like marbles, on a towel (or if your floor is carpeted, just straight onto the carpet).
Use the toes of one foot to pick up a single marble and drop it back in the container from whence it came. Continue this same process with all the marbles using the same foot.
Repeat this process using the toes of the other foot.
While seated or standing, lift your heels off the ground so that you’re resting on the balls of both feet. Hold for 1 second.
Release back down.
Rock back onto your heels so that your toes and ball of foot lift off the ground.
Repeat 10-15 times.
While seated, extend one leg out in front so that your foot is lifted slightly off the ground. Move the foot in clockwise circles 10 times. Repeat 10 times in counterclockwise.
Repeat on opposite foot.