Your feet bear your weight and help you live your life…

Have you ever sat back and appreciated how wonderful your feet are?

Marie Kondo talks about thanking your feet/socks for the work they’ve done throughout the day as we stuff them into ill fitting shoes with small toe caps or high heels “Your feet bear your weight and help you live your life”. Our feet literally carry the weight of our world day in and day out but not many people think about how incredibly important these limbs are.

Your feet contain ¼ of the bones in your body, comprising of 66 joints, 200 muscles, tendons and ligaments and a whopping 20,000 nerve endings! The function of your feet directly influences your balance, your coordination, the way you walk and also your posture. 90% of babies are born with perfect feet but as we grow older our feet start to change – they can become flat, our toes can crowd, we can develop bunions and our ankles become weak – so if 90% of us are born with perfect feet why does this happen?

The day that we are put into shoes is the day our feet begin to change shape forever. Shoes act like a form of brace for your feet that can take the work away from the muscles that are instrumental to creating the supportive arches in your feet. A little bit like if you’ve ever broken a bone and had a cast – what happens to the underlying muscle that hasn’t been used? Does it stay strong? Or does it waste away? Due to overuse, poor technique and muscle weakness our arches can drop.

Grab a piece of paper and trace around your foot. Now grab one of your shoes that you wear day to day and trace another line around your shoe – do they match or is one line wider than the other? Most people’s shoes are too narrow at the front which causes overcrowding of your toes this over time can contribute to the development of painful conditions like bunions and also reduces the flexibility of your big toe.

The other nemesis of our feet are high heels – and to the men reading this don’t think you’re exempt – the average male shoe has a heel of 1”-1.8” which can still be detrimental to not only your feet but your spine and posture as well. For every degree of heel lift, the spine compensates a degree the other way. When we wear shoes with any form of heel this change in our posture can still remain when we take our shoes off.  Try this at home and see how you measure up. Grab a piece of string or a measuring tape and stand up. Place the start of the string onto your hip bone and let it fall to the ground – does it intersect at your ankle bone? Or is it somewhere between your ankle and foot? If you see it somewhere between your ankle and foot your posture is pitching forward. When your posture is pitched forward it affects the lumbar spine by increasing the lordotic curve. This increases spinal compression, reducing pelvic floor activation, creates a pushing out of the chest which further compresses the lumbar spine and a forward carriage of the head which adds tension to the neck. Having a heel in your shoe can also shorten your calf muscle and create more tension in your achilles tendon.

So what can you do to offset the tension that is caused by wearing shoes?

  1. Get Adjusted! Adjusting the spine and subluxations (joint restriction) in the pelvis and feet help to restore proper movement of each of those 66 bones in your feet. Your joints need to move in order for your brain to receive feedback about where you are in space – Remember that the foot has 20,000 nerve endings so getting adjusted helps to optimise your nervous system function.
  2. Going barefoot – being barefoot should start from infancy and carry through to adulthood. When you are barefoot your intrinsic muscles in your foot have to work to support your weight. Being barefoot also ensures that your toes (specifically your big toe) is able to move freely – this is really important for your balance and coordination. Read more about the benefits of being barefoot here.
  3. Swap your shoes for a barefoot shoe like You want to stay away from barefoot shoes that look like gloves for your feet as your toes need to touch for optimum balance and proprioception.
  4. Stretch your calves, hamstrings and top of your foot every day for at least 20 seconds each side.
  5. Toe separators to stretch between your toes – If you find your toes are crowding wear toe separators at home.
  6. Walk on uneven, rocky, sandy surfaces to flood your feet with different sensory input which helps brain development. This is especially great for children and older people who are struggling with balance.
  7. Pick things up with your feet