The intrinsic muscles of the feet and the posterior musculature of your legs must have the proper strength and be the proper length in order to support healthy joint function and to keep the arches in the bottom of your feet ready to support the extra weight associated with movement. Due to modern footwear restrictions on foot movement especially at the individual joints, most of our feet aren't conditioned enough to walk barefoot while supporting the rest of our joints let alone take part in the Barefoot Movement that is all the rage! Click here to learn more. To top that off, most of our posterior leg musculature is actually shortened from its proper length due to elevated heels at the back of our shoes that causes our feet to be put in extension with our weight shifted forward on our feet rather than in a neutral position with our weight centered over the hefty bones of our ankle and heels. Learn more about footwear positioning in my previous blog post.
In fact, most modern footwear restricts movement of our forefoot in general and puts all the demand for flexibility at our ankles (which is wear our shoes usually stop). This demand at our ankles is against our body design as these ankle ligaments are supposed to be strong and virtually unyielding to support the bones of our heels and ankles rather than stretched out and pliable to allow to flexible movement. This increased flexibility at the ankle can lead to increased risk of injury to the ankle while the forward weight shift can lead to degeneration of the joints in our feet (think bunions and deformed feet) as well as flare ups of plantar fasciitis.
** Remember to consult with your doctor about starting an exercise program, especially if you have issues with bone density or balance.
1.) Stretch your legs and feet daily. Some helpful tools to help include a 1/2 dome that you can pick up in the craft section of your local craft store or Walmart or even a rolled up towel. In fact, below find some great stretches you can do on your own to help support your soon to be healthy feet.
This one is great because it stretches your posterior legs as well as your feet. Thanks for the great pose Katy!
Check out this great video from Katy Bowman for some more great foot exercises!
2.) Get out of your shoes for at least 2 hours every day. Just slip them off when you get home and do some of the foot exercises I showed you above.
3.) Stretch your toes. Toe spacers are a cheap and effective way to get those muscles in their proper position and in the proper length, but you can also get these great socks as well.
4.) Get walking! Increased movement helps keep your muscles working, your joints moving, and your blood pumping which can not only help you lose weight but also reinforce proper movement into your joints.
5.) Pamper your feet. A foot soak can be relaxing and beneficial for stress relief and healthy bacterial growth (this can also prevent athelete's foot too). Moisturizing your feet can also help support good foot hygiene and can be as simple as putting some coconut oil on your tootsies before a pair of cotton socks.
So get moving and get your feet in shape for running season!!!