Archive | April, 2016

Feet don’t fail me now – National Foot Month

FeetFeet go mostly unnoticed… until summer when sandals and nail polish come out in full force.  There are some who show off their feet and some who consistently hide them. 

It’s National Foot Health Awareness Month and feet problems are all over the internet, from bunions to hammer toes to fasciitis to heel spurs, you can read about everything.

But why do we have so many problems with our feet?  Katy Bowman, Biomechanist, says that feet are not healthy because of a chronic pattern in our society that decreases circulation, contributes to weakness, and even negatively effects the joints in our knees and hips. 

The chronic pattern is wearing shoes.  Shoes to the feet are like, oven mitts to the hands – they may protect to a certain degree (degree fahrenheit, of course), but worn all the time seriously limit mobility and dexterity.  

Pink kitchen gloves isolated on white background.

And it’s not just that feet are in shoes most of the time… it’s also that we walk around on surfaces that are uniformly flat.  What the nervous system does between our feet and our minds is pretty astounding.  It’s constantly measuring how far away the ground is and it measures the distance between steps on a set of stairs, too. You’ve felt this when you expected a step that wasn’t there or didn’t expect a step that ‘was’ there.

Take a quick look at your own feet.  Notice the shape and health of the nails, the joints, tendons, and muscles (can you even see any muscles?).  Do you have an arch when you stand or only when you’re sitting?  Do you walk pigeon toed or duck footed?  What pattern do you wear into the tread on your shoes?

All this provides information about what’s happening in the structure that is the foundation of your body.  Without a strong and stable foundation, the rest of the structure suffers.  Buildings are constructed with specific guidelines for materials based on the environment and stressors to ensure value and long term usage. Think about houses for a moment – a house you want to buy may appear in great condition.  However, you need an inspector to determine if the foundation is crumbling.   Everyone knows that investing in a house with a suboptimal basement is a poor choice because the rest of the structure will eventually follow suit.   House foundation

Why don’t we think that way about our feet, too?   Unlike buildings, our feet require more than stability to function well – they also require mobility which adds to the complexity of keeping them healthy.

A woman I know  broke her left foot recently.  After limping around in a boot during recovery, she developed knee pain on the non-injured side.  It turns out that she tore the meniscus in her right knee after favoring her left foot for so long.  Unfortunately, the meniscus was injured because of a problem in her right foot that was identified years ago but not resolved.  

If you suffer from pain in your knee, hip, low back, shoulder, or neck, it just may be your feet to blame.  Improve your foot health and reap the rewards a set of strong feet gives the rest of your body. 

Start off on the right foot by trying movements like these:

1  Open and close your toes

 Toe abduction

2  Walk around on the balls of your feet

 Walk on toes

If you find them difficult or you want even more practical tips on how to move your body well, join us at the
‘Don’t Exercise, Move’ workshop, April 16, 2016
www.bodywisebodywork.com/exercise-move-workshop

If the shoe just fits – don’t run in it! Foot Month Ends, Bunions

I’ll admit I converted – I LOVE minimalist shoes.

One of the very important aspects of wearing any shoe, of course, is fit. I’m always on the search for the right fitting shoe.  For me, that includes a zero drop (think no heel) and won’t attract too much attention. The Five Finger style with separate toes gets a lot of looks. Even though the shoe is mostly black on the top, it’s the pink fabric in bePinkVibramtween the toes that makes people look down.  I wore them quite a bit while hiking so they’re not as bright anymore.  Still.  Their individual toes and most people don’t understand the style.

My first pair of minimalist shoes were water resistant, didn’t have separate toes, and came in black.  No one noticed them at all whatsoever and I was able to successfully convert my feet.  But… I completely wore them out.  They had done their job of strengthening my feet.

They were replaced with a gray and black beauty by Zem.  This little minimal has fun gray racing stripes and doesn’t attract any stares whatsoever.  While it isn’t water-free during a rain, it’s a great summer option and breathes well.  Take a closer look and you’ll notice the region for the big toe is actually shoShoes_minimalrter as compared to the area for the second toe.  While it’s only slightly uncomfortable at first, it didn’t take long to get used to so I thought the shoe would work well for me.

One of the amazing things about minimal shoes is they don’t require much break in time if any at all. It either fits your foot, or it doesn’t fit – and you know it immediately.  Because the heel cup conforms so well, the fabric rarely if ever rubs, grabs, or pulls.

Believing all was well, the shoe fit like a glove, I took an opportunity to run in them.  Unfortunately, they were too short (heel to toe) and my left big toe kept jamming into the shoe tip.  By the time I finished the run, the nail was red underneath it – I eventually lost the nail altogether.

If the shoe ‘just’ fits, don’t run in it.  Lesson learned.

My latest shoes are very minimal and very size 10!  It’s not that my feet are necessarily bigger than they were – in fact, they are the same length, but shoe-makers design for very narrow feet.  And while my feet aren’t substantially wider than before, they have too much depth and musculature to be pinched into a shoe that is too small.  These fancy shoes have super flexible soles, thin adjustable uppers, and a very cool design.   I recommend a slow transition to minimal footwear to give your feet time to adjust.  Just as you wouldn’t begin exercising weak muscles using super heavy weights, you shouldn’t begin walking weak feet muscles with only minimal shoes.

Minimal_Water_ShoeDid you know that, in general, most shoes promote feet weakness, rather than strength?  Hard soles, stiff uppers, and any heeled shoe prevent your feet from using the muscles that are designed to deform, and then stabilize, over uneven surfaces. And we rarely walk on anything uneven these days so that’s an added disadvantage.  Referred to as intrinsic foot muscles, in my study of foot patterns and research on abnormalities, I’ve found that faulty foot bone alignment (or chronic misalignments, rather) as well as overall muscle weaknesses allow a repetitive shortening of specific muscles that can contribute directly to serious problems, like bunions for example.

Bunions (Hallux valgus) can become quite painful and in advanced cases, debilitating, due to the body’s attempt to protect the tissues.  Believe it or not, bunions can be completely avoided and corrected using non-surgical methods in most cases.  Just to be clear, bunions are not a genetic predisposition!  See this picture of my husband’s foot demonstrating how a specific position forms a bunion.

Bunion2_TJSHe had shifted his ankle to the inside – note the arrow and the line showing the inner ankle bone moving off center of the foot.  What he did not show is the ‘duck footed’position (toes more out, heel more toward center line) that often accompanies a bunion.  He was able to shorten specific muscles including –  Adductor hallucis (oblique head) and Flexor hallucis brevis (lateral head) to create the appearance of a bunion in the knuckle bone of his big toe.

Also notice the line near the big toe – this angle becomes more acute as pressure on that toe pushes it more toward the other toes.  Walking with this configuration puts even more pressure on the toe in the final phases of the step, toe off, further exacerbating the problem in the joint.  If a bunion can be created, it can be fixed!  Here are some tips:

  • Align your ankle – put it back in the ‘middle’ of the top of your foot
  • Walk with your foot straight – toes pointing directly forward (not easy)
  • Ask for help – seek the advice of a professional who doesn’t insist surgery is the only answer

As we say goodbye to Foot Awareness Month, I am happy to say hello to Posture Awareness Month!  May 2016 is sure to be informative – watch for more tips and information on how to make the most of your body’s position!

**If you ever need help or have a question, don’t hesitate to contact BODYWISE directly.  If you’re curious and want to try us out, attend the ‘Don’t Exercise, Move’ workshop happening May 21 and every third Saturday from now until August – we’d love to see you!