Did you know that 25% of your bones and muscles live below your ankles? Seriously! One-quarter of your body’s bones and muscles reside in your feet! They are ‘where the rubber meets the road’, the foundation of our standing self. And most of us ignore them entirely! And some of us even torture them! Don’t think you’re one of them? Have a look at your shoes. Are they stiff, narrow, pointy toed, or have a heel? Any heel, not just ‘high heels.’ Are they flip-flops? You may, in fact, be beating up your feet every day.
At the very least we all disregard our feet. Generally we don’t pay attention until they hurt. And while the pain may have seemed to come from nowhere, chances are good that the pain was created so gradually we just didn’t notice. How many of us have ‘foot problems’ such as flat feet, plantar fasciitis, corns, bunions, neuromas, hammer toes, turf toe, trigger toe, ‘weak ankles’, … the list could go on and on.
And what if I told you that quite a lot of the above list – most, in fact – are caused either by the shoes we wear, the way we stand/walk, or both? Hard to believe, but it’s true. “No!” I hear you exclaim to your screen, “My mother had bunions, and her mother, and her sister, and my sisters too – it’s genetic.” In fact, the likelihood of that is relatively small, and would be accompanied by a whole body ligament laxity that would create a host of other issues. This is very uncommon. Overwhelmingly, the diseases and dysfunctions of the feet are created by our use (or disuse) of them, and familial trends occur because we tend to pattern our movements to mimic those around us.
To make matters even more pressing, what happens to our feet affects the function of our entire body. I have no better example than myself. For several years I began to develop headaches that would be classified as an ocular migraine, since they focused around my right eye and right side of my head and neck. I have always suspected muscle tightness and dysfunction to be the cause, but no amount of muscle stretching, rolling, or chiropractic adjustment had any lasting effect. Through NKT (Neurokinetic Therapy) and some body sleuthing, I discovered a remarkable thing – my right-sided headaches were originating in my left foot! I had an accident when I was seven years old that badly damaged my left foot and ankle, and years of ballet created several more moderate to severe injuries on that foot. It’s my ‘weak link.’ And the body, in its extreme cleverness, created a line of muscular stability to compensate. If you drew a line from the outside left ankle bone up the side of my shin, up my hamstring, across my sacrum, up the right side spine erectors and back muscles, up my right side neck, over my skull to my right eye brow you have traced the system my body created to compensate for my weak and dysfunctional left foot.
So whenever I feel a headache coming on, I work my left foot. Problem solved.
Sound like dark magic? It sure seems that way, right? And yet it’s just our amazing body working as an intelligent whole to keep us upright and moving. Issues in our knees, hips, back, shoulders, spine, and neck can all relate to the use of our feet. Our posture and stride are directly linked to what our feet are doing or not doing. And considering that ignoring the feet means we only worked out 75% of our body, that just feels … incomplete.
As you can tell, I’m a real nerd for the feet. I seriously geek out about how vital they are to our overall body health. If you too would like to learn the amazing and simple exercises I call ‘The Foot Gym’, you should join me on Saturday, May 21 at 2:30!