Your feet are extremely important. They’re the suspension for the rest of the body. But unfortunately for most people they’re just an afterthought. That is until they start to experience foot problems from a lack of attention. Things like bunions, hammer toes and flat feet can all lead to aches in pains in more places than just the feet. If your suspension isn’t working properly then it’s only a matter of time before you start to notice problems in other areas of your body such as your knees, hips, lower back and even your shoulders and neck. Misalignment of the structures of the foot and dysfunction in the way people walk, otherwise known as their gait, can set off a chain reaction of further misalignment and further dysfunction throughout the body until the person is experiencing constant nagging pain.
Now you can definitely go visit chiropractors and massage therapists to help with these issues, and so you should, but if you’re not getting down to the root cause of the problem then you’re just going to have to keep going back for more treatments. Orthotics can give some people relief and should definitely be used if someone is suffering, but once again, this isn’t resolving the root cause of the problem.
So what is the root cause? In my opinion it’s a lack of strength and coordination in the feet. And why is this? Because we have become completely dependent on our shoes and we also never explore unique surfaces that challenge our gait. We lock ourselves into these “casts” called shoes and we almost exclusively walk on flat, even surfaces such as pavement. The consequence is that most of us have deformed feet. What? Deformed? Isn’t that blowing things out of proportion a little?
Did you know that your toes are supposed to be the widest part of your foot? In cultures where they don’t where shoes you’ll see that their feet are much wider in general and their toes are much more spread apart. In fact, many of these people have such good dexterity in their feet that they can almost use them as a third and forth hand. Try getting the average person from a Western nation where everyone wears restrictive shoes to try even moving their individual toes separate from the rest and the odds are pretty good that they won’t be able to. So what should one do? Well, first, get out of your shoes as much as possible. Go barefoot at home. Anytime you’re at the park or beach, kick your shoes off. If your gym allows it, even try doing some training without shoes on. Be careful though! You obviously don’t want to drop anything on your feet or do a tonne of jumping or bounding before you’ve built up the structures of the foot so they can handle it. I personally where a product called Correct Toes that has made a huge difference in the mechanics of my feet and I definitely swear by them. And check out this article by Breaking Muscle entitled 5 Foot Strengthening Exercises to Improve Speed, Power, and Balance.
Besides being a regular contributor to the Function Health Club blog, Jeff Doyle is also the co-owner of Function Health Club as well as a Personal Trainer, BCRPA Trainer of Fitness Leaders, Agatsu Kettlebell Instructor and Older Adult Wellness Practitioner. He also has a Bachelor of Human Kinetics. You can contact Jeff directly at jeff@FunctionHandF.com.