I will admit I took my feet for granted until I started training for the 3 Day Walk. I’d been a runner and really didn’t give walking much thought. Spending time out on the road for multiple hours and many, many miles takes its toll on the whole body but especially the feet. And if your feet aren’t happy it’s a sure bet other parts of the body will start to suffer.
Are you wondering why the feet are so important? Let’s look at the foot (and ankle) anatomically. With 26 bones it contains 25% of all the bones in the body. There are 33 joints. Joints are places of mobility and are where two bones meet. The bones that make up the joint are connected together with ligaments. For the body to move, muscles must act upon the bones. Muscles are connected to the bones through tendons. Arches are formed through the framework the bones give and the muscles surrounding them; in fact, the foot has 3 arches: the medial, lateral, and transverse arch. The functions of the foot/ankle are: to aid propulsion, distribute forces, and provide stability. To aid propulsion requires flexibility and strength. To distribute forces means acting as a shock absorber as well as withstanding loads and requires flexibility and strength. For the foot/ankle to provide stability and avoid injury requires the joints be supported with toned muscles. But stability should not be thought of as non-moving. We aren't statues after all! So in providing stability there must be some flexilibity as well to accommodate for such things as uneven surfaces.
The condition of most people’s feet would improve by walking barefoot at least some part of every day. Too often feet are crammed into ill-fitting shoes (worse, high heels) or anesthetized with over-stabilized—really rigid—shoes. Restricting the movement in the feet causes the muscles to weaken. When the muscles don’t support the joints or move the bones as they were designed problems and often accompanying pain will result.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.” So what can you do to fix this? Of course, stepping onto your yoga mat for practice offers your feet some freedom as well as the opportunity to work. You can also supplement yoga with other exercises to help strengthen your feet. I recently contributed some tips in Putting Your Best Foot Forward When your feet are happy (read healthy) you’re in a much better position to put your best foot forward.
Health, Wellness & CURES!!
ps. A follow-up to a question... Yes I've run in Vibram's 5 Fingers shoes. I was intrigued with the concept of barefoot running after reading Born to Run. I thought the case for stripping away the excessive stabilization made sense. More compelling than that though was the explanation for how the force/stress of a heel strike reverberates jarringly up the leg and into the spine as opposed to running 'barefoot'. I can attest to the fact I had absolutely NO hip or low back pain running in the 5 Fingers. I was totally impressed! A word of caution though....you need to take it real slow. Your feet act as shock absorbers and your leg muscles work differently---especially the calves. Starting with .25miles is plenty--I learned the hard way starting at 2 miles and was 'crippled' for weeks!