I have received a few emails in the past few months from students and teachers on the subject of the feet, and thought we might begin a discussion of this important part of our anatomy. The feet are the most distant part of our anatomy to where we usually “reside” in our minds, and thus they can often be relegated to a position of little importance. That is, until they begin to speak up about our lack of care! When your feet are unhappy, the whole body is unhappy – and the reason for this is that in many ways the feet form the foundation for our physical anatomy in everyday life.
I have certainly noticed living in the tropics, where we often go barefoot or wear thongs – um, those are flip-flops for our Canadian readers – and through the barefoot tropical summer even my own feet have started to complain about the lack of support. This is particularly evident when we are working on firm and flat manufactured surfaces.
Someone recently told me that we shouldn’t have to wear shoes. “We were born without them, why should we need to wear them? It isn’t natural” Well, that would be true if we walked on natural and uneven surfaces all day, and maintained our life-span of 50 years. However, due to the manufactured surfaces that we walk and stand on all day, and the continued evolution of the human species, we now really do need our shoes to keep our feet and our bodies in good health.
First and foremost to having healthy feet is wearing shoes that support your unique feet; bringing the earth up to your feet in their current state. Finding shoes that support your arch, offer impact absorption, and balance the movement of the foot are important. There are also shoes that offer “functional fitness” for your feet and your whole body. We have mentioned in previous newsletters the amazing MBT’s (Masai Barefoot Technology Shoes) which offer your whole body a supported foot, great posture, and a balanced workout even when standing. We were introduced to “Fitflops” at the recent Australian Yoga Conference and they are an affordable alternative to MBT’s. An easy to wear (and attractive) sandal that offers support and ideal function. In my own experience, I could instantly feel my hips balancing and an easing of pressure in my low back as soon as I put them on. (MBT’s and Fitflops can be found at Athlete’s Foot and Foot Solutions stores worldwide)
Secondly, some exercises to keep your feet healthy include:
Wake Up Well
If your feet hurt when you first step out of bed, take a moment with your feet hanging off the end of the bed, and write your name in the air with each foot before you step down onto the floor.
Pat The Mat
To exercise the muscles that support your arch, take some time while you are brushing your teeth to “pet” your bathmat. Use your toes to comb the mat up under your foot. In the absence of a bathmat, you can work to pick up a pencil under your toes, or just walk your foot like an inchworm across any flooring surface.
To wake up the foot, sit with one foot crossed over your thigh and use your palm or a soft fist to tap the sole of the foot for a minute or two before switching feet. This will wake up the tissues in the foot and release tension in the sole of the foot.
Tennis Ball Massage
To really massage out tensions in the foot, stand in a comfortable position and place a tennis ball under the instep of one foot. Roll the ball around to massage the bottom of the foot for a minute or two before switching feet.
More Care For Your Feet
If you are concerned about the function of your feet, there are professionals who can help. A podiatrist/chiropodist can help with serious foot pain and arch concerns. A reflexologist can use the magical pressure points in the foot to release tension from the foot and the whole body. As well acupuncture, Bowen therapy, osteopathy and Thai Yoga massage can be helpful in bringing your feet into a state of vibrant good health.
First Published in the Mind Body Messenger 2009