The things in life we do without conscious thought are often the things we take for granted so much. Being bipeds (a being that uses two legs for walking) is actually a very complex thing for our brain to organise yet we’re able to do it without conscious thought.
Our feet play a huge role in our ability to move in an optimal way.
The foot & ankle contain 26 bones (one quarter of the bones in the human body our in our feet), 33 joints & more than a hundred muscles, tendons & ligaments! Our achilles tendon is able to withstand forces of up to 1000lbs! (it’s also one of the most commonly injured tendons – you may learn why as you read more).
When our feet make contact with any given surface signals are sent to our brain via our spinal cord & our brain is then able to send signals back to all our muscles to adjust our posture that enables are safety & facilitate locomotion (movement).
How & Why…
As a species we have moved far longer bare foot than we have wearing shoes that alter the sensory inputs our brain receives via the foot as well as the free movement of all those 26 bones, 33 joints & over 100 muscles in our feet. If any of you have ever had the misfortune to have a limb in a sling or cast you will be aware just how much muscle size & strength you can lose in a matter of just 4-6 weeks – now think about how (just like a sling or cast) what impact encasing our feet has! The result is often loss of mobility & stability.
For example; your brain knows that if you don’t have stability or mobility it will primarily do one or more of the following, lock a joint up, make a muscle go weak (which by default causes another to become very tense) or create pain. This our basic neural safety mechanism.
So now being aware of the above neural safety mechanism our smart adaptive brains have evolved to do to enable our continued locomotion. Lets now look how this may affect other areas of our body.
80% of gait is on one leg… when we walk we load up the foot & based on the signals our brain receives adjusts the rest of our body above it so we are balanced enough to swing the other leg through along with the opposite arm as we rotate – walking.
But if our footwear doesn’t allow all of those bones, joints & muscles to function as they should our brain has has to compensate all the way up the biomechanical chain (see above ‘superficial back line picture above) therefore placing additional stress on other structures.
Left unrehabilitated poor foot movement can lead to hip pain, lower back pain, shoulder pain, even tension headaches! – often the pain is located on the opposite side to the original issue due to over compensating for such long periods.
Free Your Feet!
Simple things to ensure good foot biomechanics are getting barefoot as often as possible. Move on different surfaces to!
Here is a great little YouTube video of a daily foot routine that would benefit everyone https://youtu.be/QY5FW9BPbBg
Other simple self help things would be;
Choosing shoes that allow free natural foot movement
Choosing shoes that have thin flexible soles
Choosing shoes that are devoid of arch support – plantar fasciitis & flat feet more often than not is due to hip instability/weakness.
Don’t expect overnight miracles. It’s common like any other group of muscles that haven’t worked for some time as they should to experience aches, discomfort & sometimes pain in other areas as your body adjusts to moving as it is designed to do. Take your time, enjoy the journey & the results will pay dividends.