Feeling Is Healing: Why Your Feet Matter

Your feet are your body’s foundation and as an Osteopath, the feet are my favourite area to treat as they are a masterpiece of design, a complex system of sub systems comprised of 26 bones, 33 articulating joints and over 100 ligaments, tendons and muscles (far too many to individually list!). Your feet are KEY in providing overall stability to the rest of Your body. Together the structures of your feet make up a system of slings and springs to enable the muscles to shorten, lengthen, receive and respond to the environment. The mechanics of a seemingly easy task such as walking is complex enough, running and jumping even moreso.

For my Osteo and Yoga clients, I consider what is happening at the feet and often, work on the feet during treatment whether it is low back pain, headaches, a gammy shoulder etc checking where the shoes are worn away, and the patten of foot movement whilst walking. The complexity of the feet can make them prone to injuries including; Plantar Fasciitis, ankle sprains, bunions, Morton’s Neuroma are amongst the more common foot complaints I see.

If an architect built on poor foundations, what would happen? The building might start to sink on one side, the bricks and supporting structures would be placed under excess load and tension causing wear and tear. There might be a knock-on effect on the plumbing leading to problems with drainage, we then might have a mould issues and damp. My point is, if you don’t address your foot health you could be causing problems elsewhere….

The knees and hips can directly suffer from poor foot posture and mechanics and vice versa, but for simplicity’s sake lets stick with the feet today. For example, pronated feet otherwise known as fallen/collapsed arches will place excess strain on the inner ligaments of the knee this in turn can cause our thigh bones to internally rotate, our muscles and soft tissues have to adapt and overtime this can cause pain, dysfunctional movement patterns, affect our breathing and our ability to drain away lymph. Does the building and plumbing analogy make more sense now?

For our feet to be able to support us, they need to be able to FEEL, receive and respond to their terrain. Footwear can interfere with how our feet can interpret information and dampens their ability to respond. Those stilettos, whilst sexy, deform the shape of your foot affecting their ability to be the supportive, springy, adaptive foundation they were designed to be. Have you’ve ever played that game where you have to open items wearing oven mitts? It is similar for your feet and feeling the ground when it comes to wearing chunky shoes….so whilst they maybe fashionable, they're not functional!

Ideally footwear allows your feet to be free to move, which is why I am an advocate of barefoot footwear, my favourites being Vivo Barefoot (I have no affiliation with them by the way except that I love their shoes and will recommend them for anyone looking for Barefoot options). Orthotics and ‘supportive’ shoes certainly have their place in the short term, however they shouldn’t replace the need to improve your foot agility and strength. Please note, if you are considering switching to barefoot shoes, make the change gradually and consider all other aspects of your health. Your healthcare provider whether it be a Physio, Osteo or Chiro should be able to guide you in this matter.

Simple Tips for Better Foot Health

· Be barefoot as often as possible. In and outdoors just let yourself feel the ground; grass and sand is especially grounding and lets your feet experience different textures and depths so they learn how to adapt.

· Stretch your feet. Yes take a hold of your tooties and your footsies and mobilise, stretch and massage them – a video will be ready very soon for this!

· Strengthen your feet – scrunching a towel and picking up a pencil with your toes are interesting ways you can get your feet to move. Again video coming soon!

· Don’t forget to strengthen your hips and knees as they can have an impact your feet.

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