The muscles of our feet are designed somewhat like springs. If our arches are strong and working well, there is a spring effect that we can work with to be “light on our feet,” improve balance, and more easily transfer our weight from leg to leg to propel our bodies forward through space to walk and run. Our “springs” also work when we jump UP to move vertically if we’re playing sports like basketball, volley ball, dance, or gymnastics.
The image of Tigger in Winnie the Poo just popped into my mind!
How great does it feel to have a smile on your face, and a little “spring” in your step. As kids, we run, jump, hop, skip and play! But as we get older it seems these normal physical activities seem to fade and become distant memories of things we used to do, but aren’t in our vocabulary any longer. Too many hours sitting behind a desk, poor shoe choices and lack of time spent maintaining the strength and flexibility of our feet, ankles, calves, hamstrings and perhaps whole-body.
Getting to the Root of the Problem for Better Whole-Body Health
Have you ever experienced pain somewhere in your body not from an accident or a hard work out, but over time a little ache here, a bigger pain there. It’s nothing big enough to “worry” about or to make any changes in your lifestyle or exercise program, and then… one day, suddenly it seems you’re incapacitated and unable to keep up the facade that nothing is wrong.
It’s time to face the fact that there really is something going on that you need to pay attention to, find a solution for and take action to change so you can get your good health back.
I received this question from Wendy about toes and leg pain and thought there might be other folks out there who would be interested in my response.
This is Part 3 in a 3-part series on Healthy Feet: Heel Mobility for Better Balance & Body Control
Stretching the calf and soleus muscles are important for your lower leg and ankle flexibility, but just doing a plain old calf stretch probably isn’t going to dramatically improve balance because it is not the flexion and extension of the ankle that needs improvement as much as the lateral side-to-side strength and support.
What can you do to improve balance?
One of the best ways to improve your balance is to challenge the body with exercises that have you standing on one leg. But if your feet and ankles don’t have the right amount of strength, flexibility and mobility to keep you upright, chances are simple exercises balancing on one leg may seem darn near impossible unless you’re holding onto something!(And holding onto something for support has you using your Arms to balance more than your feet, ankles and legs.)
There are thousands of opportunities throughout the day where we have a moment to practice standing on one leg and balance. Can you guess where your top two opportunities to practice balancing on one leg are?
How Are You Working: Legs turned Toe-Out, Parallel, or Pigeon?
This article is Part 2 in a 3-part series on Healthy Feet: Heel Mobility for Better Balance & Body Control
Little, seemingly insignificant posture habits can set you up for problems, pain and injury. And what is interesting is the fact that your heels and ankles might not be the weak link that is setting you up for a potential problem. What do I mean by this?
Part of paying attention to leg alignment is knowing what is happening at the feet. A toe-in, parallel or toe-out stance or gait pattern can dramatically change how the feet and ankles work and affect the stress placed on your knees and lower back. As a result of your everyday foot fitness habits, the muscles that are strong or weak in your feet and lower legs can be your own unique posture challenge.
But half of what you need to pay attention to might be the direction of the feet and the other half is what’s happening at the hip.
Use the Standing Agitator Exercise to Free Up Your Feet, Ankles and Heels
Heels and ankles need to be limber and move freely so that they can help us balance on uneven surfaces. Check to see if you have strong, flexible heels and ankles with this quick and easy ankle mobility exercise.
Test your balance by standing on one foot. Do you have a little “play” in your foot and ankle to keep you on balance, or is your ankle stuck/frozen? With good movement through the heel and practicing that agitator exercise in the long run it’s going to help with better balance and healthy mobility for your feet.
The Agitator Exercise
After doing the Agitator Exercise are you more aware of the movement at your ankles and heels? When you started, did you feel “stuck?” If it is hard for you to tell, get with a friend and have them stand behind you while you are “agitating” or twisting, to watch your ankles and heels for movement. Ideally, you want to see (and feel) your feet shifting from the inside of one foot to the outside of the other, and switching sides as you change directions.
For more exercises and tools to improve both ankle strength, and ankle mobility, use a Super Ankles Foot-Fit Board. This is one of the best foot care products available to help keep ensure injury-free ankles.
If you run, walk or play sports this helpful foot care product can help you with ankle strengthening exercises to avoid ankle sprains. If you are recovering from an ankle injury, the Super Ankles Foot Fit Board can be utilized for ankle sprain rehabilitation exercises. (Check with your doctor to be sure you’ve healed and it’s appropriate to begin an ankle rehab program.)
The Super Ankles Foot-Fit Board Bundle comes with an exercise booklet, the Super Ankle Exercise Board, and a How-To DVD with an 8-minute Super Ankle Board Workout.
Part One – A Simple Ankle Exercise and Foot Fitness Test
for Alignment, Balance Body Control
This article is Part 1 in a 3-part series on Healthy Feet: Heel Mobility for Better Balance and Body Control.
A really important task that our feet provide for us is balance. Our toes individually grab and release the ground for stability, the ankle allows us to shift our weight without toppling over, and the foot (between the ankle and the toes) can be strong and rigid or pliable to adapt to different terrain.
The foot is almost shaped like a triangle, wider for more support across the forefoot and the toes and supported in the back at the heel. Instead of thinking about the heel as a single point, (like one leg on a three-legged stool) the ankle and heel allow for mobility of the foot which means you can be centered on the heel, stand more towards the outer heel or bear more weight towards the inner heel. This medial / lateral heel mobility is critical for balance and keeps us from straining or spraining an ankle when walking or running on uneven ground.
The key concept here is medial / lateral heel mobility.
January 23rd is Measure Your Feet Day: It’s Time to Check In with Your Feet and Check Up on Your Shoe Size.
Remember when you were a kid and your mom put you up against the wall or door-frame and measured how tall you were?
Wasn’t it fun to check the date and see how you’d changed?
Well as an adult, it’s still good for us to check our height, but it’s probably even more important that we periodically re-check our shoe size.
When was the last time you measured your feet?
January 23rd is officially Measure Your Feet Day! How some of these wild and wacky days to celebrate end up on the calendar I’ll never know, but this is a great day to help raise awareness about the importance of paying closer attention to your feet in order to keep you healthy, happy, and pain-free. Here are some tips to help you measure your feet and toes to ensure you’re in the right sized shoes.
Discover the Secrets to Healthy & Happy, Pain-Free Feet (No Pilates experience required.)
Good health starts from the ground up! Whether you walk or run, taking good care of your feet is an important part of any wellness program.
There are lots of quick & easy foot care exercises you can incorporate into your workouts to help improve your posture, body alignment and muscle support for healthy, happy, injury-free ankles, arches, and toes.
I received some great foot care questions from Matt about leg alignment, toe out walking, and orthotics! And he’s not the only one out there challenged with these problems…
Foot Care Questions:
“I apparently pronate and have had custom orthotics for decades. I hate them and am trying to wean off by way of store-bought supports which are less expensive.
No matter what I use, however, my feet toe out and I often click my heels as I walk (and ruin my pants!)
My question is, if my shoes wear unevenly and my heels are crooked, what good will holding my foot in place do if the shoe underneath it is at an odd angle? And what can I do about it?
I absolutely love these foot care questions! Because Matt’s becoming a critical thinker and really starting to notice more about his leg alignment, feet and ankles, and the results of poor functional movement habits. There are thing he wants to fix, but investing in expensive orthotics doesn’t seem logical because he’s worn them for years and still has problems. Matt’s observations are correct, orthotics aren’t entirely the solution because they don’t correct the toe-out gait pattern. So what else can be done to keep from clicking the heels and walking like a duck? Lots, actually…