The evolution of the foot, or maybe it is the evolution of the shoe that is holding us back. I read a study that said children who go with out shoes until around the age of 5 have the happiest feet. Growing up for me, going barefoot was never an option. I began the same trend with my children, even putting my oldest into special and very expensive shoes. My other 3 did not get the same “luxury” and I often would send them out barefoot. Their feet are fine, my oldest has his mom’s tender foot.
I am seeing more and more of Today’s Athlete presenting with weak feet. Tired, sad, pronated, hyperflexed feet. All being told they have flat feet or collapsed arches and are being put into orthotics. NOOOOOOOOO! They have feet that need to be strengthened! Lengthened and allowed to move!
One of my favorite success stories is of a young man, who after several years of me offering to help him with his feet, finally called and said, Mrs. Hardick I am ready to do something about my feet.
I was thrilled. This young man had been to countless podiatrist and even had had surgery on his feet and was wearing othodics for a high arch.
None of them addressing the muscular holding patterns that were quite evident as he stood before me. To be certain, I had a Dr. look to be sure we were not dealing with anything structurally abnormal before I began prescribing a series of exercises each week to help restructure and release the constricted musculature of his feet.
These are untouched and unexaggerated photos of this young mans feet. He was 20 years old at the time. We have a classic case of a strength vs length imbalance. Every week for one summer this young man came to see me, I watched his feet and his stance improve each time that he walked into the studio.
After a little over 2 months we took these photos.
What a change! We began first by massaging the arches of the feet with a tennis ball to help the fascia along the soles of the feet release. I also introduced him to the three points on the bottom of his foot, the heel, the ball of the big toe and the ball of the little toe in an effort to help him reconnect with the earth in a more mindful and balanced fashion. From there I began introducing him to different exercises to strengthen and lengthen the weaker muscles of the foot and calf. He was diligent and did his exercises 2X a day. His metatarsals were overly plantar flexed and it was important to find ways to get these muscles to lengthen and release in an effort to restructured this young mans feet. His mom was thrilled, she told me after so many visits to the podiatrist and surgeons, who would have thought it would be the Yogalady who would be the one to help her son. He is away at college and I have not seen him in a while, I hear that he is studying to be a PT. Imagine how empowering this had to be for this young man. Not to mention how much better he must have felt both physically and emotionally. We have a lot more power to self heal then many of us give the body credit for. Muscular holding patterns if not recognized and released can have irreparable damage to our bones structure.
“In the 19th century, surgeon Julius Wolff proposed that mechanical stress was responsible for determining the architecture of bone….” (Forwood & Turner, 1995, p. 197).
“Remodeling of bone … occurs in response to physical stresses – or to the lack of them – in that bone is deposited in sites subjected to stress and is resorbed from sites where there is little stress” (Salter, 1970, p.7).
Bunions are another area that if we are mindful at an early age, we can possibly ward of any long term effect.
There is strong pull of the flexor hallucis longus along the medial arch and across the ball of the big toe joint as we take a step forward pushing off of the big toe. In an effort to keep this tendon from harm from the weight of the body, it is incased by two little sesamoid boned on either side of the tendon. This tendon sits right under the ball of the big toe, so with every step their would be a lot of stress and strain from the forward movement and the weight of the body. These little bones now take the weight off of the tendon. There are several contributing factors to the formation of a bunion, heredity, accidents but more often then not, shoe! Shoes that push the big toe toward the midline. This pull from the tendon is then shifted away from center toward the midline of the toe. The constant pull on the tendon continues to pull the tip of the big medially and can even cause the toe to get stuck up under the other toes, all the while pushing the ball of the big toe further away. This tension on the bone creates a callous buildup as well as changes the shape of the bone. If caught early we can actually change the direction of the pull and find balance.
Imagine the effect of this change on the rest of the body. We are just scratching the surface of the feet much less the rest of the body which as I see it has an amazing ability to self heal, all it takes is a little time and awareness.
How are your holding patterns in your feet holding you back.
See you, on the mat!