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Meet your Feet – hard working and often overlooked

Feet don’t really get much credit as we go about our daily lives. Most of us probably don’t think about them at all until they start to ache, maybe after a long shift at work or a walk or run. If your feet ache, do you think about why and what is causing the achiness?

Feet are so complex

The feet are actually amazing and complex structures that bear the weight of the whole body (70-80g) on a total surface area of not much more than the average tablet. In this space each foot has packed in 26 bones, 30 joints, 19 muscles, 3 arches and associated ligaments, tendons and fascia.  All of this means that the feet are springy, shock absorbing structures that constantly adapt and move according to the surface they are on, shoes you are wearing and the pressures of standing, walking and running. A lot of the bones and muscles in the feet are tiny and you might be forgiven for thinking they are therefore not very significant.

But then think back (showing my age here) to David Beckham’s broken 2nd metatarsal which put him out of action in a Champions League match back in 2002. The news made the headlines as he was stretchered off the pitch and his recovery was tracked. Not only was this a claim to fame for metatarsals as people scrambled to look them up but it is a demonstration of their significance. A 6.5cm bone that can immobilise a professional sports person if damaged.

Why feet are important

Feet form the base for our bodies, they provide balance and enable movement. They are literally at the end of the line bodywise and have to contend with often poorer circulation than other body areas as a result. All nutrients that they need have to travel all the way down the legs, and then the waste products pumped back out again mainly by the action of the feet and calves. They are full of nerve endings too and sensitive to changes in pressure. It is not surprising that with any conditions affecting circulation such as diabetes the feet are one of the first areas to suffer with both circulation and nerve function compromised.

Foot misalignment

Sometimes our feet can be misaligned either due to our natural posture or to restrictions in the legs and hips in particular. Misalignments such as pronation (flat feet) or supination (high arches) change the way we use our feet as we walk and this can lead in turn to more restrictions upstream in the body as well as pain in the feet themselves. Sometimes people are given orthotics to correct their misaligned feet which can also lead to more pain in the feet, ankles, legs and hips. Given the complexity of the foot structure it is hardly surprising that forced changes to their mobility will result in pain, as will poorly fitting shoes or overuse through too much standing, walking or running.

How to help your feet

It is not surprising therefore that in the complimentary therapy world at least there is a lot of emphasis placed on looking after your feet – walking barefoot on grass to calm your nervous system, reflexology as a conduit through your feet to your internal organs, or even a humble foot massage that can feel so relaxing.

Another way to help your feet is through myofascial self-help exercises. These don’t just focus on the feet but also on releasing tension and restrictions in all of the supporting structures in the lower legs and thighs. If your feet are feeling achy then why not try these our Fascial Fix exercises for foot pain to help release and relax the fascia in and around your feet. And if you like these then you might also like our All About Class for Legs & Feet which has lots more information and more exercises.

 

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