Paying attention to your feet pays great dividends
If you’re a married man, you’re familiar with the term ‘happy wife, happy life.’ If for some reason or another you’ve upset her, you’ve experienced how she can make your life less than pleasant.
This is why I’m walking round on eggs around my wife because my mouth has a nasty habit of running ahead of my brain. I call it the male mouth disease or MMD for short and unfortunately a cure will never happen. 😊
Let me take the foot out of my mouth and talk about why happy feet lead to a better functioning you.
Let’s Take a Closer Look At The Feet
The human foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons. That’s a lot of neglecting when your feet are in shoes. However, I understand the need for shoes, but you need to spend time with your shoes off also.
Because when your shoes are off, your feet are free to receive valuable feedback from the central nervous system. You’re re-engaging all the nerve endings and muscles of your feet as they’re the only point of contact between you and the ground.
The feet are your foundation of your balance, posture, and mobility. It’s the feet’s job to sense and respond to the ever-changing environment from stairs, cracked and uneven sidewalks or walking up and down a mountain. (1,2,3)
Plus, don’t forget about your toes either. When you’re running around or training legs, the ground force on the big toe and second toe (by the big toe) is a whopping 64% of the total forefoot load.
Have you ever stubbed your big toe and realized (besides the agony) how important your big toes are for getting around? That’s why an injured big toe can sideline the average Joe or a superstar athlete.
Here’s A Little Test For You
To find out for yourself how important your feet (and toes) for your balance, posture, and strength.. Stand up straight with your shoes and socks off and feet hip width apart.
Turn your right foot clockwise towards 1 O’clock and left foot anti clockwise towards 11 O’clock (as hard as you can) but without actually moving your feet. It’s like you’re corkscrewing yourself into the ground.
Did you feel it? By rooting yourself to the ground you’re creating an arch, which you’ll feel all the way up to your glutes. Now look down and notice that your ankles, knees, and hips are all in a straight line.
The ability to create and maintain this arch helps your ankles, knees and hips stay in alignment which puts you in a better position to exercise, move and be awesome.
Exercises To Strength And Mobilize Your Feet
Your feet and ankle movement play a starring role in your ability to move around. The ankle, being the only joint near the ground, is the first joint to sense what’s going on and it sends those signals via the nervous systems to the brain for processing and a muscular response. (2, 3, 4)
If your ankle mobility is lacking, your brain doesn’t receive good information to respond to your environment and loss of balance and falls can result. And you don’t want that.
Here’s a test to see you have good ankle mobility.
If your ankle mobility is lacking, this is a great exercise to improve it.
Plus, massaging your feet, working out all the sore spots helps your feet better engage with the ground and it feels awesome too. Performing 50 rolls daily on each foot works wonders.
Furthermore, these two exercises may seem simple, but they will go a long way to strengthening those overlooked muscles of your feet.
This exercise from Taylor Lewis and it’s way harder than it looks.
Stagger your stance, (right foot back, left foot forward) heel to toe, shift your hips back and touch your right hand to the shoelaces on your left foot. Take your right foot off the ground and balance until you stumble forward, or you lose your balance. Repeat on the other side. Do two-three reps on each leg.
Being a single leg stance with your weight on the front foot, any collapse in your arch will cause you to lose balance.
Single leg KB Swap
The simple act of swapping the KB away from your working foot forces you to maintain your arch or else you’ll lose your balance. Your ankle will be shaking like a leaf on a windy night.
Both these exercises can be included into your warmup or supersetted with a leg exercise that requires a strong arch.
1A. Squat or Deadlift variation
1B. Single leg KB swap – 6 reps
1B. Shoelace touch- 3 reps on each foot
As a side benefit, both exercises will help improve your balance and performance on and off the field.
The feet get stuffed in socks and shoes and are often forgotten and neglected. But when you pay attention to them they will reward you with better posture, movement and hopefully less pain.
If your feet smell, please do these exercises privately, for obvious reasons.
- Williams, VJ., et al. (2016) Prediction of Dynamic Postural Stability During Single-Leg Jump Landings by Ankle and Knee Flexibility and Strength. J Sport Rehabil. Aug;25(3):266-72.
- Christiansen, C. (2012). Geriatric Physical Therapy, Impaired Joint Mobility. Chapter 13, pp 248- 262, Mosby Elsevier.
- Gaur, K & Davinder, A (2014). Comparison of ankle joint range of motion on balance score in healthy young and adult individuals. Journal of Exercise Science and Physiotherapy, Vol. 10, No. 1, Jun: 25-30.
- Spink, MJ., et al. (2011). Foot and Ankle Strength, Range of Motion, Posture, and Deformity Are Associated With Balance and Functional Ability in Older Adults. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, January Volume 92, Issue 1, Pages 68–75.