Updated: Jul 9, 2018
The feet must last a lifetime. The more you understand about the feet, the better you can care for them and even fix them when their function goes astray. The feet are subjected to more wear and tear than any other body part. Just walking a mile, you generate more than sixty tons—that’s over 120,000 pounds—of stress on each foot! Fortunately, and what’s even more amazing, our feet are actually made to handle such natural stress. It’s only when we interfere with nature that problems arise. Almost all foot problems can be prevented, and those that do arise can most often be treated conservatively through self-care. From birth until death, your feet have a strategically important role in health and fitness. But too often, they become one of the most neglected parts of the body. If the feet lose their support—poor muscle function affecting the arches is a common affliction—the body can lean just like the Pisa, which in turn can lead to knee and hip problems, low back pain, spinal dysfunction, and other physical impairments. And an imbalanced body is more prone to tripping and falling down. Your feet form the base of the body’s physical structure, and any departure from optimal balance can have significant adverse effects not only locally in the feet but for the entire body. These problems are often transmitted through the ankle, an extension of the upper part of the foot. Anatomists technically consider the foot and ankle as two separate areas, but I consider the ankle as a vital part of the foot for ease of discussion. The ankle is a vulnerable area; approximately 25,000 Americans sprain their ankle each day. And probably many more develop at least one unstable foot and ankle. The body’s skeleton is a critical element of one’s structural integrity because the muscles attach to bones allowing one to move properly. The same is true with the bones of the foot—muscle function is a key part of its fitness and health. The early stages of most foot problems are usually secondary to muscle imbalance. Trauma can cause injury to any component of the foot, including a muscle, bone, ligament, tendon, or joint. Another important job of the feet is to help balance the whole body. The feet continuously communicate with the brain to regulate the rest of the body’s daily movements, including standing, walking, and running, and even riding a bike. This is accomplished by powerful nerve endings at the bottom of your feet. These nerve endings are developed from infancy and their function is necessary throughout your life. Disturbances of these nerve endings due to trauma, disease, poor footwear, or neglect can lead to further health concerns. The nerve endings at the bottoms of your feet also become a potential source of powerful therapy when properly and specifically stimulated. This approach can be used both preventatively and after some injury is realized. For example, a simple foot massage, even by an untrained person, can be great for your feet and brain because these nerve endings—also the reason it feels so good—are gently stimulated. While many problems in the body are the result of either obvious or hidden foot imbalances, some foot problems themselves are secondary to more primary disorders. When this happens, these secondary foot problems can, in turn, cause other problems with the body—just like tumbling dominoes. Examples of problems that cause secondary foot dysfunction include structural faults in the spine and pelvis, muscle imbalance, trauma, shoes that don’t properly fit, over-supported shoes and those with higher heels, and certain diseases such as diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, neuropathy, inflammation, and arthritis. Foot problems are very common. And the most typical complaint about the foot is pain. When pain presents in specific areas of the foot, it most often indicates the source of the problem. For example, pain at the top of the foot may indicate a mid-foot fracture, although there may be other causes of this type of pain, including tying your shoelaces too tight. Many foot problems lead to inactivity. Reductions in the level of one’s activity can make anyone get out of shape fast; it can also lead to changes in metabolism leading to weight gain, circulatory insufficiency, muscle loss, poor coordination, and other more serious disabilities. In terms of structure and biomechanics, improper shoes of any type—from dress and casual to all sports types—can alter how the muscles and joints function, not only in the foot but in the leg. For example, ill-fitting footwear can affect the muscles around the knee; the knee joint may move improperly. When this irregular movement continues, the result is some type of knee injury, usually associated with pain.
Taking care of your feet will keep k-sense working at its best throughout the body. This includes spending time barefoot, alternately balancing on one foot, and avoiding shoes and socks that don’t optimally match your feet.
When your feet are healthy and fit—with balanced muscles, good circulation and no distortions—your movement, whether walking, jogging, running, is accomplished most efficiently. This means wear and tear is minimal, as is the energy requirement to keep the feet moving. Any deviation from normal posture and movement causes more wear and tear not only in the foot, but ankle, knee, hip, pelvis, and spine. It also causes you to expend more energy on movement—in some cases significantly a lot more. Abnormal foot movement can cause a variety of muscles to over-compensate, adapting in the ankle and knee and resulting in off-balance movement of both joints and related muscles. Foot imbalance can have a negative impact on the knees, hips, pelvis, and spine, and even areas such as the shoulders and all the way to the head.