Our feet are incredible.
We use them daily for just about everything, and yet they are seemingly one of the most neglected part of our bodies. Not only do we spend the bulk of our day on our feet, but we often choose to wear shoes that don’t offer our feet any support. Well, we say that it’s time to whip those puppies out, and give them some much needed love (which they most certainly will embrace).
Needless to say, there’s a lot going on our feet. The foot consists of 26 bones, which form approximately 33 joints involving well over 120 tendons and ligaments, and over 20 muscles. The feet also have one of the highest concentrations of nerve endings in the body, at approximately 7,000 per foot. It’s no surprise that when we don’t offer our feet the support that they truly need, that they start to take a beating. Our arches collapse, bunions begin to form, and pronation or supination of our ankles takes head.
Our feet are literally our home. They are our foundation. They create a strong base so that everything else in your body can stand in alignment with ease, including the pelvis, spine, head & shoulders. Simply put, the way in which we stand, informs how the rest of our body to act.
The first exercise is modelled after Pilates’ “Toe Gizmo” exercise and is designed to wake up the nerve endings in each toe:
1. Take two rubber wristbands and loop them together to make two long connected loops. Sit down with feet firmly planted on the floor; place one of the loops around the big toe, between the two proximal joints; and hold the other loop in one hand.
2. With the free hand, press the remaining four toes down, and pull up the big toe with the band, really stretching it away from the floor. Feel the neural response through the foot and up the back of the leg.
3. Now, resist the band with the big toe muscles and push the toe back to the ground; keep gentle upward traction with the hand holding the band. Repeat twice on each toe, both feet, working slowly and mindfully.
You can easily regain your strength and flexibility in your feet, and the rest of your body with these 2 simple exercises:
The second exercise rebalances the tripod of weight bearing:
1. Stand tall in parallel on both legs. Lift the big toes on both feet; notice how that supinates the feet (rolls them out).
2. Keeping big toes lifted, now push the big toe mound (joint) back down, and notice the diagonal strengthening of the foot from big toe joint to outer heel. Repeat.
3. Now lift all toes except for the big toes; notice how that pronates the foot (rolls in). Re-calibrate weight back into pinkie toe joint and feel the opposite foot diagonal strengthening, from outer distal edge to inner heel. Repeat. Try to do both feet at the same time.
You can read more detail on the importance of healthy feet at this excellent blog post here.