Well-Being for the Open-Minded Sceptic # 77- Keeping our Best Foot Forward – Dec 2020
First I just want to acknowledge what a year 2020 has been. With all that has gone on in the world this past year, I am grateful to call Tasmania my home. I feel sorry for my friends and family members back in the US. Overall, it has been more of a struggle for them than it has been for us in Tassie. In saying that though, it has been an eye-opener for us all, no matter how much we were impacted by this year’s challenges. But as you may know, I am forever looking for the silver lining. I look at 2020 as having been an opportunity to learn a bit more about ourselves and our fragile connection to each other and our environment. I will continue to give you tips and tools to assist you in feeling healthier and more confident in your bodies. It is my hope to make your life a bit easier and perhaps more pain-free as we move forward
So, let’s get started from the bottom up…or feet first. Here in Tassie, we like our walks. We have so many beautiful natural attractions to see. But if we have painful feet, it may not be so appealing. So just how important are these two extremities on the ends of our legs? Well, we have 26 bones, 3 arches and 4 sets of muscles in our feet. Our foot bones actually account for over half of the bones in our entire body. I was telling a massage client that had particularly stiff feet, “try to grab the ground when you walk, it will help strengthen your feet.” He said, his toes were not really very flexible. This is common with people as they get older. Their arches start to collapse from years of not using their foot muscles or from time spent standing passively on the front of their feet with their hips rocked forward. When the metatarsal transverse arch (the one across the top of the foot) starts to collapse the toes start to splay and the foot widens. This leaves you standing flat-footed. Not a very stable or comfortable place to be. Plus, flattened arches can cause a multitude of problems like heel, foot, and ankle pain, knee, hip, and lower back pain, rolled-in ankles, Morton’s neuroma and bunions. Finding some good shoe inserts that help support all three of your foot arches can help. But you really want to start getting some strength and movement back into your feet. You can throw a cloth on the ground and gather it under your foot, or practice picking up a small ball or pebble. If you find it particularly hard to get movement in your foot you can get a foot massage or roll your foot over a foot roller or tennis ball to help loosen it up. You can also place a small superball behind the toes under the transverse arch of the foot while standing to help strengthen your arches and train your weight to rest primarily on the heel. Make sure you have a wall or something to hang on to when first practising this.
If you are not a hunter-gatherer bushman, then good shoes are especially important when you venture out for a walk. This is especially true given the harsh, natural and unnatural surfaces on which we walk and the corresponding damage and underdevelopment in our feet. Unfortunately, good shoes are hard to find. Most consumers and shoe manufacturers are ignorant of what constitutes a good shoe, leaving a proliferation of cheap and or compromised footwear on the market. Here are some characteristics of a good shoe. 1. a firm last that provides a slight kidney bean shape 2. Shock absorbent soles, particularly in the heel 3. Arch supports for all 3 arches of the feet.
But what about walking on the beach? A frequent question is whether or not it is healthy to go without shoes. The answer is it depends on the condition of your arch muscles, the alignment of your body and the surface on which you walk. If your feet are healthy walking barefoot on sand is a great way to stretch and strengthen the feet and calves. If you have weak arch muscles, even a casual stroll on the beach can further distend your ligaments. Don’t go barefoot on the beach without actively engaging your arch muscles while walking. Even if your arches are in good shape, it is never advisable to go barefoot for a long length of time on hard surfaces such as concrete or asphalt.
Remember to always keep your best foot forward and have a safe and happy holiday season!
Contributed by Michelle “Mickie” Ball Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher 0428 223 271. Some excerpts taken from “8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back” by Esther Gokhale