Nobody really thinks about their feet too much. We cram them inside our shoes every morning and go throughout our lives without so much as a second thought. But what if I told you that our feet may be the cause of our dysfunction and it's not because they smell funny. After watching a PT seminar from The Foot Collective I began realizing how overlooked this part of the body truly is.
A good starting point is to ask, what is the main function of our feet? Most people don't know that the main function is actually to provide sensory input. That's right, whenever your feet are on the ground, they are sending information to your brain about where you are in space. Not outer space, astronaut. The space around you. This input allows the brain to make adjustments by firing certain muscles to maintain your position and keep you upright. Your feet are very similar to your eyes in this way; their job is to let your brain know the position of your body. So why do we treat them so differently when protecting them? When we go out in the sun, we where sunglasses to prevent damaging our eyes. We don't wear a blindfold. But when we go outside we slide our feet into thick, cushy, compressive shoes which essentially act as a blindfold for our feet. Losing all contact with the ground reduces our ability to receive that sensory input, causing us to "walk blind". Talk about a first world problem.
Think about this for a minute; when was the last time you owned a pair of shoes you could really spread your feet out in? Probably never, right? Designers make shoes skinny because they look better for fashion purposes. The problem arises when your shoes are constantly constricting your feet into a narrower position. This decreases the movement of joints, creates a narrower base of support for us to balance on, and shuts down some of the very important muscles we have in our feet. All of these contribute to our feet not moving the way they are intended to and causing dysfunction upstream. In order to have a solid building, we need to make sure we have a solid base and that starts at the feet. Now, I'm not here to tell you to never wear your favorite pair heels or dress shoes ever again. As with most things, I'm just saying that we need to balance it out in order to avoid problems.
A simple way is to start rolling out your feet with a lacrosse ball. Just 1-2 minutes per day on each foot can help get the joints moving, which puts the muscles in a better position to start doing their job again. Another simple way to balance out the effects of modern shoes is to simply be barefoot whenever possible. If you are in the comfort of your own home, take those suckers off! If you are at a gym that allows it, deadlift or squat without shoes and see if you feel the difference. This will help strengthen those small muscles of the feet, spread the toes out, and create a better connection between the foot, hips, and brain. If you can't be barefoot very often then the next best option is invest in minimalist shoes. These are specifically designed to mimic barefoot as closely as possible by using a smaller heel rise, more room for your toes, and much more flexibility.
Foot dysfunction doesn't necessarily mean you'll have foot pain. Many times, this dysfunction will manifest itself as another lower body issue such as knee, hip, or back pain. If you are having any of these issues and feel like you'd benefit from a closer look, don't hesitate to contact us.