If you read the last Majuscule you may have got the idea how important the squat exercise is. Well, pop quiz Utah! What two appendages that when not respected will lead to major problems squatting leaving you as the chump on the leg press machine (see last majuscule)? Hint, it is NOT your knees BUT when these two puppies are out of whack your knees are the next to go. Ok, still stumped, if you failed to read the title of the newsletter and you just can’t get it look down…No, not your gut. Your FEET!
So much of what we do in life, sports, fitness is ‘ground based’ meaning we plant, slam, bounce, and strike our feet on the ground transferring force (energy, power, etc) into our feet which sends it up through our legs, hips, core, and beyond. Nearly EVERYTHING we do starts from the ground and our medium of force transfer is our FEET! You can have the strongest legs in the world but hey will be left useless without proper care. Read below on some quick ways to care for your feet!
PS. Big things coming…
I’ve been giving this some considerable thought recently and I’ve decided that our feet don’t get nearly enough credit. They’re a sweet little set of 24 bones, greater than 20 muscles, more ligaments, tendons and joints than I care to count, and (of course) that damned plantar fascia. Think about it, we expect those little boogers to carry us everywhere!! Imagine that responsibility.
Having said that, foot pain can really put the breaks on any exercise regimen. I’m told (by the highly reliable internet) that there are 33 joints in the foot. With all those little moving parts, it’s no small wonder that there might be breakdown someplace along the way.
Foot structure is as individualized as fingerprints (think CSI: Anatomy Edition), and far be it from me to deem any one of those structures as “normal”. Probably the most obvious structural deviation is longitudinal arch height (that’s the arch running along the inside boarder of your foot). So class, that’s where we’ll focus today’s lecture…
“Feet are like your own special finger prints”
I once generated an appalled gasp from a podiatrist by slipping off my shoe to display my collapsed arches. I wouldn’t call it my greatest source of pride; in fact, foot pain-likely a direct result of my flat feet-almost forced my running career into early retirement. Happily, I got the hook up with an excellent pair of custom foot orthotics and my feet immediately quit their bitching.
Dr Exercise’s feet pre-podiatrist/new shoes/orthotics…duct tape DOES fix everything!
Flat feet (or as we say in the biz, ‘pes planus’) are happiest in a pair of shoes with more support and a straighter last^. When looking for shoes, take a peek at the part of the sole where your arch will live. Go ahead, poke at it (don’t be shy!). If it’s stiff, particularly stiffer than the rest of the sole, this equals support. I also like to take the shoe and give it a nice twist, like ringing out a wet rag. If it twists as easily as that wet rag, it won’t be coming home with me.
High arches (or ‘pes cavus’ if you’d like to be fancy and snooty about it) generally require a shoe with greater cushion. In a perfect biomechanical world, our feet have a certain amount of flexibility. But often, high arches indicate a certain degree of structural stiffness, which needs to be cradled, particularly in the heel and mid-foot. In addition, the shape of the shoe should match that of the foot, with a greater curve in the last^.
My best advice for choosing a shoe is to find something that works well and stick with it. I have been a firm believer in the Asics 2100 series and have been a loyal customer since the 2110 back in Ought Six 😉
If your feet spend any amount of time registering complaints with the rest of your body, it might be wise to invest in some orthotics. Over-the-counter orthotics are a safe place to start, particularly because of the costs involved landing in a custom pair. Plus, even the greatest orthotist may not get things exactly right on the first try.
While I believe external support or cushion to be a vital part of foot pain management, my PT instincts obligate me to stress the importance of strength and flexibility. Maintaining flexibility in the calf muscles reduces the stresses on the plantar fascia (a thin layer of inflexible tissue along the bottom surface of your foot).
Standing = Stagger feet in a stride position and point toes straight ahead. Keep back knee extended/straight and lean weight forward until stretch is felt in the calf muscle of the back leg. **Best to do with arch supported by shoe and/or weight shifted somewhat to the outside of foot!!**
Sitting = Extend/straighten knee (best supported by bed, couch, or floor) and wrap a towel or belt around the ball of the foot. Pull evenly on each end of the towel or belt until stretch is felt in the calf muscle. **ALSO best with shoes on to avoid stretching the foot itself**
Standing = repeat position described above, allow back knee to bend slightly until stretch is felt in a lower area of the calf.
Sitting = repeat position above, but allow knee to bend slightly until stretch is felt in a lower area of the calf.
**As always, hold static stretch for 30 seconds, 1-2 times a day for best results**
Also, the ‘intrinsic foot muscles’ that live inside your feet are sadly under-appreciated. By strengthening these muscles, you’re providing internal support that far exceeds the quality of any shoe or orthotic…not to mention, the cost is free! Two of my favorite foot muscle exercises include ‘towel crunches’ and ‘marble pick up’.
Towel crunches: Sit in a chair with foot flat on the ground, situated on top of a towel (preferably not your favorite monogrammed hand-towel). Use toes to curl around the fabric and ‘scrunch’ towel into bunches beneath your foot. Repeat for approximately 2-3 minutes once daily. If you get particularly ambitious, set a weight on the far end of the towel and try to drag it towards you with the method described above.
Marble pick up: Seated in a chair, scatter marbles on the floor in front of you. Curl toes around marbles one at a time, lift and drop into a cup or container. Try to incorporate all toes and occasionally pinch one between 1st and second toes. Repeat for 2-3 minutes once daily.
Marble Pick Up
It is important to note that foot pain may be an indication of any number of pathologies. We would both be fools to assume that two pages of text are sufficient treatment in place of an actual examination by a medical professional.
Cheers to the hardest working appendages in our bodies!!