The foot is one of the most important body parts you will ever learn about. That is because you stand and walk on your feet all day long. In fact probably the only time you don’t use your feet is when you are sleeping or lounging on the couch. So, it is to your benefit to notice the way your foot connects to the ground and the way you use it for walking and standing because that force translates all the way up and down the body. Your feet are truly your only physical connection to the Earth. How your feet related to the ground will dictate your ability to find your center.
Three Things Guaranteed to Make Your Feet Happy
Touch your feet and get to know them. Where are all the bones? Do they move? Should they move?
Your foot consists of 26 bones; 14 phalanges (big toe only 2), five metatarsals, three cuneiforms, a navicular, cuboid, talus and heel/calcaneus. Note; there are 27 bones in your hand. Is your foot more like your hand, or is your hand more like your foot?
Notice the way your foot moves when you walk. There is a slight twisting, can you feel that? Your foot is a dynamic energy rebounder that allows you to feel the surface you are on, and then propel you forward. This make you the most efficient walking mammal on the face of the Earth.
Exercise your feet to better take care of them and make them happy and healthy. Don’t forget toe taps, heel taps, and angel wings. You can also try picking up smooth stones with your feet or write your name in the air with your toes. Working out your foot intrinsic muscles keeps them able to move and be as dynamic as possible.
“The anatomical transition to upright posture and gait on two feet was the most profound change in our evolution from apelike creatures. It was the prime trigger of human evolution, resulting in a complete restructuring of our anatomy and the emergence of the huge human brain that propelled us upward”
Stephen Jay Gould, Paleobiologist
“Man’s bipedal mode of walking seems potentially catastrophic because only the rhythmic forward movement of one leg and then the other keeps him from falling on his face.
In actuality, it is man in pursuit of his center of gravity”
J.Napier, The Antiquity of Walking
Three Important Things to Know About Your Feet
Besides appreciating your feet, another thing to pay attention to is how your feet are aligned while you are standing. Ideally your foot should have fairly equal weight distribution between three main points; the heel, the 5th metatarsal or outside of the foot and the, first ray or toward the bid toe. Those three points act like a tripod to support your foot in a balanced way.
The second thing to notice about your foot is your mid-foot, especially your medial or inside arch. This relates to the strength of your foot and the strength of the inside or your leg. Due to the nature of our world, that we wear shoes and tend to walk on concrete all day, this arch can be lacking. When this happens there is an increased pressure at the heel and big toe joint. Over time this can cause problems such as plantar fasciitis, bunions, changes to the big toe joint, and heal pain. Wearing shoes that support your can improves the function of your foot. Also, strengthening the underneath of the foot can help minimize the collapse of this arch. As stated before, toe curls, and picking things up with your toes helps this part of your foot.
Lastly, you want to keep your foot and achilles tendon supple and stretched. If the calve muscle or achilles get tight is can minimize movement in the foot and cause weakness and then problems. Regularly massageing your foot and calve muscles will help minimize problems to those areas. We tend to forget we have feet and calves, but it is very important to keep them stretched out on a daily basis.
Here are a few feet exercises to really make your feet happy all day long! Have fun! Maybe you can have a foot party!
Exercises for Your Feet:
Toe Tapping: This exercise promotes dorsi flexion. You need 10 degrees of dorsiflexion in normal walking. If you do not have that this is the exercise for you. Also, include stretching out your calves.
Position: Seated in a chair with the knees flexed at 90 degrees
Movement: Keep the heel on the ground and tap the metatarsal on the floor. Especially the area between the first and second toe. Tap with confidence. Repeat until you feel the front of the shines and then do a few more, or about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Heel Tapping: This exercise promotes plantar flexion. You need 20 degrees of plantar flexion in normal walking. Plantar flexion helps push you away from the ground and propel you forward. If you have trouble with this exercise, you may be a victim of high heels, or may need help grounding your feet to relax the front of your shine. Can you stand and flex your ankle without the tendons in the front popping forward? If not, put more weight into the floor and try it again.
Position: Seated in a chair with the knees flexed as 90 degrees.
Movement: Keep the toes on the floor, especially the area between the first and second toes. Lift and lower your heels. Continue for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Angel Wings Inward: This is an exercise for people who pronate. Because you are moving your foot into the opposite or supination. Remember you need both to walk efficiently. So make sure you do angel wings in both directions.
Position: Seated in a chair with the knees flexed at 90 degrees. Place a red ball or pillow in between the knees to make sure this movement is coming from the lower leg.
Movement: Move your foot and toes inward with the quality moving sand. It’s like being at the beach. Do 10 to 15 repetitions.
Angel Wings Outward: This is an exercise for people who supinate because it does the opposite with your feet. Again, remember to do both directions when you do this exercise.
Position: Seated on a chair with the knees flexed at 90 degrees. Place a red ball or pillow in between the knees.
Movement: Move your foot and toes outward again with the quality of moving sand. Hear the waves? Do 10 to 15 repetitions.
How to Advance all these Exercises? Try using a little resistance in the opposite direction with a theraband. For a super hard exercise, when you do the angel wings with the theraband, try a set of repetitions without moving the toes. Wow, now that is a foot control exercise.
Alphabet Exercises: This exercise with use each joint of your foot. It is like broccoli for your feet.
Position: Sitting on a chair, lift one foot off the ground. If needed you can hold your let with a tie or hand if necessary.
Movement: With your toes write the alphabet in the air. Start from A and go all the way to Z. Make sure the letters are capital, box or printed style letters.
Especially for Your Toes
Big Toe Dorsi Flexion: This exercise keep the joints in the big toe open and able to move. It will help to bend the toe in push off phase of gait.
Position: On a chair, hold the big toe with your fingers, let the rest of the foot hang.
Movement: Make sure you traction the toe by pulling toward the end of the toe, or by just hanging on to the toe and letting the weight of the foot hang. Then dorsi flex or bend the big toe back toward you.
Toe Ups/Downs: This is to work the planter flexors on the bottow of your toes and feet. These muscles are also used for push off in gait.
Position: On the floor with the legs straight and in front of you. Wrap a theraband around the big toe and pull it toward you.
Movement: Point and flex the big toe. Do 10 to 20 repetitions. Then wrap the theraband around the next two toes and repeat. Then the last two toes and repeat. Check that you are not holding the theraband too tight because that can over stretch the bottom of your toes. Be gentle, but firm. Again, make sure you do both feet.
Toe Curls: This exercise is to help strengthen the bottom of the feet and toes.
Position: On the floor with the legs stretched forward, or lie on your back on the floor, and allow your legs which are long to rest on the wall. You can place a ball or pillow between your legs to keep the hip, knee ankle alignment. Place a paper towel or tissue. under all the toes. Notice if you can see all the metatarsal heads peeking up at you like knuckles. You should have five of them like a fist.
Movement: The legs are long, and the toes are kept curled. Point and flex at the ankle. See if you can do it without letting go of the paper towel or tissue.
Alternative Exercise: Put a towel in front of you and curl it up with your toes. Sometimes referred to as “eating the towel” exercise.
Play Piano: This exercise is the ultimate rainy day activity. Preferably with friends in front of a fire sipping hot chocolate. Basically, it takes practice in order to do, and once you have accomplished it your friends will be utterly amazed.
Position: Seated on a chair with the whole foot on the ground. You can put a pillow between the legs if you would like.
Movement: Lift all the toes and then gracefully place one toe down at a time, starting from the little toe to the big toe. You can also start from the big toe to the little toe, but it is a little harder. If you get this down, you may be able to play Mozart after awhile with your toes.