I have always been fascinated with babies feet and I might say quite repulsed by adult feet. I had such a foot phobia that I really believe it was a prerequisite to my choosing my spouse. Crazy as that may sound, it is true. But I must say I have gone full circle with feet. The only thing I can attribute it to is I befriended my feet. I began to see them not as the nemesis and cause for my discomfort, but as a mistreated, abused and neglected part of my anatomy.
For as long as I can remember my feet hurt. I was never able to jump or run in grades school without feeling a sharp stabbing pain in my metatarsal of both feet. By the time I graduated High School I had had two surgeries on both of my feet and still no relief. Over the course of the next 20 years I tried specially made shoes, orthotics, tennis shoes, arch supports, lifts you name it. If it was a chance for me to walk pain free I was all over it. You would never catch me yearning much less wearing a pair of High heels.
My first yoga class, when they took me back to the room, I looked at the teacher and said “you want me to take off my shoes AND my socks?” I almost did not stay. BUt stay I did and the transformation to my feet over the next 10 years has been life changing!
I put on shoes first thing in the morning as I climbed out of bed and did not take them off till I crawled in to bed that nite. Now, not only do I love to go barefoot but I run in barefoot running shoes and I can even wear High heel shoes. The less support I have in my shoes, the better my feet feel.
What is going on?
I always hated running, well it was not so much the running that I hated but the pain it caused me. My toes would fall asleep, my knees and hips hurt. It was just not worth it to me.
Here is what I learned and am continuing to discover
SHOES ARE BAD FOR YOU! Or at least they were bad for me and I am finding for many people. I remember the Dr. telling me part of my problem was from wearing my shoes to small, but yet I found they were treating that by binding up my foot in shoes and orthotics. Hmmmmmmm
As I began to slowly introduce my feet to this idea of barefootedness, they have grown stronger, softer and prettier. I love my feet. So many people only pay attention to the feet when they hurt, and then, like most of our ailments, we look for a quick fix to the problem.
For over 1000 years chinese women would bind their feet as a mark of a women of wealth. They began this practice when the girl was 4-7 years old. It was thought that the perfect bound foot was only 3” long. This created structural damage to the foot not to mention the life long pain the women endured. Although a bit exaggerated example of the effect of shoes, it does cause one to ponder, could our shoes really be restructuring our feet? I believe so and am finding more and more proof.
Shoes, I believe are the causative factor to many of Todays Athletes feet issues. ANd I am not alone.
Dr Daniel Lieberman, professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University, has come to the conclusion: ‘A lot of foot and knee injuries currently plaguing us are caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to over-pronate (ankle rotation) and give us knee problems. ‘Until 1972, when the modern athletic shoe was invented, people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet and had a much lower incidence of knee injuries.’
There is all sorts of research to back this up and a whole new running technology out there to back and support my experience.
While I am not suggesting Todays Athlete needs to play football, or tennis or run in bare feet, I am suggesting that looking into barefoot runners for conditioning and strengthening the feet should be top priority for todays athlete if they wish to stay healthy. Going barefoot as often as possible is one of the best ways to strengthen the feet. I know this from experience! It is important to discern that there is not a structural problem with the feet, but what I am seeing in todays Athlete is the result of ……………………… SHOES.
It has come to my attention that going straight into barefoot runners should be done gradually, I was fortunate in that I had done so much work to strengthen my feet and my ankles that making the switch was easy and painless. Because I have directed so much care to my feet, I have found many creative ways to strengthen ,lengthen and create space in my feet. Not to mention the rehab I went thru after I broke my ankle and the nasty sprain that came with it.
With in a year I was running 5-10 miles. I was having issue with my knee and hip and contributed it to poor running form. It was not until I returned from a 5 week trip to Indonesia did I recognize it was my running shoes. I spent the majority of my travel in little to no support as the shoes I wore, if any, were simple handmade sandals. I returned home and went on an easy 2 mile walk in my high dollar running shoes and was almost crippled with pain in my knee and hip. I already had suspected part of my earlier issues with running were my shoes and had gotten a shoe with a little less support. A friend suggested the barefoot running, which I knew was not something I was going to be able to do with my streets and still tender feet. So I tried the barefoot runners. Not only was I able to run in comfort and ease, but I was completely pain free in my knees and hips for the first time after a run.
Todays Athlete has got to pay a little more attention to the care and strength of the feet, they are after all what propel you forward, backward and side to side. They are one of the most important physical attributes we have to moving thru life with ease, yet the most neglected part of our body.
Take time to really include your feet in your training for sports as well as your training for life. Yoga for Todays athlete should have a strong emphasis on strengthening as well as creating space in the feet. Kick off those shoes and lets start getting those feet fit! I will be sharing more information on the feet as they are our connection to the earth, our foundation. With out a strong foundation the structure above will collapse. With correct flexibility, strength balance and endurance your feet should out last you and be able to bounce back with grace and ease to the challenges today’s Athlete meets.
Here is a simple balancing exercise that can be done everyday to help today’s athlete find flexibility, strength balance and endurance,
Single Leg Balance Reach
Balance exercises typically require standing on one leg, which puts stress on the ankle to make it stronger. The single leg balance reach will strengthen your ankle if you maintain correct foot alignment. It is to allow your ankle to roll and your foot to flatten or shift as you do this exercise. Instead, keep each foot flat so you can feel both sides of your heel and your little toes and your big toes flush to the floor, with your arches lifted. To perform a right single leg balance reach, stand on your right leg, with the left foot an inch from the ground next to your right. Extend your left foot straight forward, and then bring it back to center. Extend your left foot out to the left side, and then return to center. Finish by extending your left foot behind you and returning it next to the right. Repeat on the left.
I think next we will look at the arch or should I say arches of the foot. You read correctly, there are 3 of them.
See you, on the mat!