Our feet are probably more important to our health and wellbeing than we have ever imagined them to be. We have about 200 bones in our bodies and 26 of them are in each foot. As well there are 19 major muscles, 33 joints, 17 ligaments and 200,000 nerve endings. Care to count them all? In the words of Leonardo da Vinci “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” How well do we look after these masterpieces? Do we give them the same care as the rest of our body and how many people actually like their feet? I have never seen people in the gym doing foot specific exercises unless they are in one of my classes.
Take your shoes and socks off and have a look at your feet. Now lift all of your toes. Can you put your big toe down, then your second? Then follow that with the rest of your toes one at a time. Can’t quite manage to do that? The big toe may have been easy but what about the rest of them? What’s happening? Most of us can’t move our toes individually.
We were born with this ability (although I have yet to meet a 6 month old who can understand me when I ask him/her to do just that) and have lost it somewhere along the way. Why? - Mainly due to wearing inappropriate footwear rather than the bare feet we were designed to use.
Do your feet hurt from being squished inside shoes all day? Have you worked out that your toes need some space to move and breathe? What can you do to have more healthy feet? Research shows people had more healthy feet before the invention of shoes. I am not suggesting that you go around bare footed all the time but if you increase the time spent bare footed say at home this can help. Also shoes with low heels or no heels help.
I have researched the impact of footwear on our feet. As a result I switched to ‘barefoot shoes’ – ones with minimal soles and no lift in the heel – or elsewhere. Wearing these I began to feel the surface of the Earth, footpath etc. more noticeably and felt more connected. When I encountered an uneven surface, my feet and legs would compensate for the change in terrain and I could remain upright. I had a greater awareness and balance – even though I believed I had no issues.
As well as bare feet, there are exercises and other approaches that can make your feet healthier. But more about this in other posts. For now we need to understand that the complexity and importance of our health and wellbeing starts with our feet.