Last time I wrote about becoming aware of where your head is in relation to the top of your spine. This post is about your feet — your incredibly important connection to mother earth.
The deeper my knowledge of pilates, the more I understand that the feet are the body’s foundation – the tools of balance, mobility, and posture. I always include footwork and foot awareness moves in my pilates classes.
Feet are biomechanical marvels. Each foot has 26 bones, 31 to 33 joints, 19 to 20 muscles (it varies according to how they’re counted), along with thousands of nerves (explaining why feet can be so sensitive to touch!).
Children are mostly lucky to run around freely on healthy, blemish-free feet. As we get older, our feet often bear the toll of ill-fitting or bad shoes: fallen arches, bunions, hammer toes or plantar fasciitis.
Freedom of movement at the joints where the toes meet the feet (the metatarsal-phalangeal joints) is essential for freedom of movement higher up in the body – your knees, hips, pelvis.
If you wear routinely wear high heels, you are storing up back and foot problems. You are forced to walk with your pelvis tilted forward, causing unnatural curvature of the spine and placing excessive stress and strain on the low back. Also, your calf muscles and Achilles tendon will be shortenened. Not to mention problems in the feet themselves from squashed toes (see list in previous paragraph).
As our feet are mostly tucked away in shoes, it’s very easy to overlook your feet and toes, and forget how much they do to carry and support you.
When the weather gets warmer, feet start to be revealed and you are forced to check in with them. But ideally we should be checking in with our feet all year around. Lately, I have been encouraging my pilates clients to work in bare feet as a regular way of checking-in with their feet.
Here are my recommendations for healthy feet:
Do foot exercises! Here are three simple ones:
– 1) Spread your toes wide, then lift all toes off the floor while leaving the ball of the foot down; progress to lifting just the big toe off while leaving the other toes down, and vice verse.
– 2) Stand on the edge of a step with your shoes off. With your weight on the balls of your feet and your heels extending off the edge, drop your heels down to stretch Achilles tendon and calf muscles.
– 3) Try picking up a pencil with your toes.
Massage your feet frequently – either using your knuckles or pressing down and rolling out on a small ball.
Mosturise and care for your feel (before bed is a good time!). Visit a chiropodist or get a pedicure. For a really relaxing treat, go for reflexology.
Finally just make your entrance in your high heels! Then switch to lower heeled shoes that won’t cause you long-term damage.