What would we do without our feet?
They touch the ground whenever we are standing, walking or running. They are extensions of the legs, which help move us. Actually, our feet are the foundation of our bodies, the basic bottom line. Keeping them healthy is a big deal.
Here is all you ever wanted to know about Feet 101
The Gait Cycle: When we walk or run, our body goes through a complex set of steps that makes movement seem smooth and easy. It’s actually a complex cycle called the “gait” or walking cycle. It looks something like this: start with your right heel on the ground in front of you with the rest or your foot in the air; when your heel first hits the ground, it is called “heel strike.” Next, your foot starts to flatten on the ground as it takes on more weight. That’s “mid-stance.” Then the ball of your foot and the toes finally touch down on the ground, just as the heel begins to lift. As the momentum of your body continues to carry you forward, your toes come off the ground and the whole foot/leg gets ready to swing forward. So, basically, when you walk, one leg is always swinging forward, while the other is bearing the weight of the body. Obviously, the slower you move, the more likely both feet will be supporting your body weight at the same time. The faster you move, the more likely one foot will be supporting body weight at any given time. A smooth walking or gait cycle means that the forces from the ground are absorbed by your heels and feet each time you take a step. Energy from the ground and healthy movement is transferred through the feet up into ankles, knees, hips and into the spine, all the way up to the head. Your feet also help you adapt to different terrain like grass, dirt, concrete, etc. Every time we walk, it’s like a cool symphony of movement.
The Three Arches: Foot anatomy is super important in foot function. Did you know that each foot has three arches: one on the inside of the foot, one on the outside and one across the ball of the foot. These arches are all important and must all be functioning properly to facilitate healthy movement and weight-bearing.
Common Foot Conditions: When our feet do not have the arch support we need, we start having all kinds of problems that can start innocently enough, but can have nasty consequences:
- Excessive Supination: If your arches are too high or over-supported, it’s called “excessive supination.” People who excessively supinate have trouble wearing certain shoes that are too tight because they create pressure on the top of the foot and the ball of the foot. Excessive supination occurs in about 3 percent of the world’s population.
- Excessive Pronation: A more common occurrence is something called “excessive pronation,” which means the arches actually fall toward the floor or flatten out. Stand up and make your feet fall or collapse inward by rolling your feet toward one another. Do you feel the stress on your body? Keep your feet collapsed and close your eyes. Feel the strain on the inside of your ankles, the inside of your knees, the outside of your hips and possibly into your lower back? The stress moves up through your spine to the shoulders, the neck and the head. There are many painful conditions related to your arches collapsing and your feet excessively pronating, including bunions, corns, callouses and toes that stick up or off to the side.
- Other conditions: More serious conditions include plantar fascitis (inflammation of the thick tissue on the bottom of the heel), Achilles tendinitis (inflammation of the Achilles tendon), Morton’s neuroma (thickening of nerve tissue between the third and fourth toes, causing sharp pain on the ball of the foot), anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, arthritis, and hip and lower back pain. Yikes!
Factors that affect Your feet for better or worse:
Genetics: You cannot outrun your genes. Flat feet or excessively pronating feet run in families.
Surfaces: Concrete and stone are the worst surfaces for the feet. Generally, the harder the surface, the more stress on the arches and the faster they will collapse. Dirt, rubber tracks, carpeting and grass are all softer surfaces that offer some cushion to the feet and help to reduce strain and shock.
Shoe types: If you look inside almost every shoe, sandal, flip-flop, boot, etc., you will notice that there may be some inner arch support. Hardly any shoe has outer arch support or support for the arch under the ball of the foot.
Orthotics and arch supports: Arch supports help to stabilize and support the feet so that they can have healthy movement patterns. This can reduce pain not only in the feet, but in other areas of the body as well.
Put Your Best Foot Forward: We spend much of our lives taking our feet for granted. Take care of these little beauties!