Unfortunately, the inverse is true too. Not only are poorly functioning feet unpleasant to look at, they often smell and frequently hurt. More importantly, badly functioning feet are frequently associated with knee, hip, back and neck pain. Even the origin of some headaches can be derived from feet that don’t function well!
Foot problems are nothing new. A course manual written more than 80 years ago by world famous foot specialist, Dr. William Scholl, reported seven out of every 10 people had painful feet, citing shoes as a major source of the problem.
If you review the medical statistics from any branch of the military, in virtually any country, you’ll quickly discover that for as long as soldiers have been lacing up their boots, they have had foot troubles.
With so many people suffering from so many problems, you may wonder whether the foot was one of evolution’s few architectural mistakes.
I don’t think so.
The foot is a complex, beautifully designed shock-absorbing part of your body. Any traveler to a third-world country will tell you that walking barefoot is completely normal. Items such as foot pads, powders and insoles for sale at the drug store are as rare as hen’s teeth and the word orthotic is as foreign as a microwave oven!
However, problems arise when this carefully crafted part of your body is strapped into a shoe! Shoes crowd the toes, disrupting joint function and alignment, all of which commonly results in overlapping toes and bunions.
Shoes are seldom wide enough to allow the necessary freedom of movement to the tarsal and metatarsal bones that enables the foot to function, both as a shock absorber and a platform from which the legs must generate the necessary force to walk, run and jump.
When shoes are narrow or laced too tightly, the metatarsal bones are jammed together, often pinching the nerves that run between the bones. Frequently, the result is a neuroma, a painful problem to say the least.
Make your feet happy!
The good news: There are some simple steps you can take right now to improve the way your feet function.
For starters, the best thing you can do for your feet is to wear shoes as little as possible. Whenever you can wear sandals or get your toes in the dirt, don’t pass it up. The little bones of your feet love the chance to move, which helps keep the joints properly lubricated.
When using your bare feet to run and play, your toes grasp the grass and move independently through the sand, keeping the small intrinsic muscles strong. This prevents hammertoe, a condition resulting from an imbalance in foot muscles and being boxed into tight shoes.
Whenever you are sitting down, for example at the dinner table, practice spreading your toes as wide as you can and holding them open for five seconds at a time. This will prevent your toes from overlapping due to intrinsic muscle weakness.
Ever play marbles when you were a kid? Here’s a “game” that will help your feet function better. Place a bowl of marbles by the toilet. Each time you sit on the toilet, dump the marbles on the floor and fill the bowl with marbles once with each foot. You may be shocked to find that your feet are so stiff and uncoordinated from wearing shoes that you can hardly pick up a single marble.
I assure you that your feet were smart as a child. You need only go to Fiji and see grown women weaving baskets with their feet and hands at the same time to realize picking up marbles is child’s play, compared to what the foot can really do.
Make good choices for your feet
If you have to wear shoes or sandals, make sure they fit properly and allow for adequate space to allow your feet to move. When you lace your shoes, never pull the laces tight over the top of your foot. Only tighten the top laces. If you over-tighten them, you immobilize the foot and joints, making for a lazy, painful and poorly functioning foot.
Again, wear shoes only when you must. Don’t lace them too tightly and buy shoes that have room for your feet to move. Spread your toes repeatedly every night at dinner and keep marbles by the toilet so you can keep your feet smart and beautiful.
Finally, don’t wait till your feet are ugly and painful to do something that can improve their beauty and function and leave you with more energy at the end of the day!
Love and chi,
I’m humbled to have been nominated for Most Influential Barefoot / Minimalist Educator in the Global Barefoot awards!
I’d be grateful for your support in these awards, so if you like what you’ve read just now, please complete the Global Barefoot awards survey here.