Our feet are the most utilised part of the body and, it seems, the least taken care of….and I’m not talking about pedicures! Our feet move us through our day and get us to where we want to go every single day of our lives.
The arches of our feet are designed to provide us with shock absorption, flexibility, support, weight distribution of the body and the ability to adapt to changes in surfaces when walking and running. Feet need to be strong, supple and balanced. Everyday things like wearing rigid shoes all day long can leave them stiff and weak.
There seems to be a very large importance on exercise to keep the rest of our body healthy and fit but somehow our feet get forgotten! Nobody thinks about doing any exercises for their feet yet we expect them to carry us around all day long.
We need our feet to maintain a good sense of balance, stay mobile and avoid falling as we get older. What is exciting is that there are simple exercises we can do to improve the health and function of our feet.
Weak feet can affect every other part of our kinetic chain. If the muscles in our feet aren’t working correctly to hold the bones of the feet and ankles in their ideal alignment, there is a very good chance that anything stacked above the feet will be misaligned. This can mean we are not using the correct muscles in other areas of our body to move properly throughout our day. This can include anything from walking, sitting, standing and exercising. This, in effect, places added stress on other joints and, over time, this misalignment and poor muscle recruitment can result in foot, ankle, knee, hip, back, shoulder or neck pain. Doesn’t sound good does it? Improperly balanced feet affect the whole body.
What exactly affects our feet you ask?
- Improperly fitted shoes
- shoes which are worn out
- high-heel shoes
- immobile ankles
- hyper-mobile ankles
- jobs which require more time seated than standing are not contributing to healthy and happy feet.
When feet begin to hurt, people opt for a quick fix such as arch support/orthotic inserts for shoes. While this extra support from our shoes can be a benefit, we may be relying on our shoes a little too much to do all of the work instead of the muscles of the feet.
There are simple exercises for our feet to get the muscles working more efficiently. If our muscles are strong enough to hold the bones of the feet in their proper place, the feet should feel great! A lot of athletic shoes are now designed to do the work for us by holding our feet from rolling in or out. The result of this is that the muscles of the feet may continue to weaken. This means exercising and strengthening our feet is important.
What are common reasons that people experience foot pain?
- illl fitting shoes shoes
- old injuries such as sprained ankles, broken toes
- uneven weight distribution between the legs/standing unevenly on legs, standing more on the inside or outside of the foot (pronation/supination)
- poor mobility in the ankles, feet, and toes
- lack of foot strength
- standing and walking incorrectly
- sore knee, hip or lower back by protecting the injury
This means that sometimes problems which may have started at the foot end up as a problem somewhere else in the body and sometimes a problem elsewhere in the body causes problem in the feet.
How can Pilates help with foot pain?
Pilates is great for working the intricate muscles of the feet. Pilates looks at the whole body in various postures from seating, standing, laying on stomach, side or back and more. As Pilates is practised without shoes so the whole foot gets to participate in many exercises which makes attending Pilates classes regularly a great way to ensure you spend time shoeless.
Some great Pilates exercises for feet include:
1. Running on the Reformer
2. Ankle Exercise on the Stability Chair
Regular Pilates exercises both on the mat and equipment are ideal to maintain great whole-body health – including our feet. Using Pilates to maintain the strength and mobility of our feet will ensure better balance and healthy feet, along with better posture now and as we get older.
If you would like to know how to better strengthen your feet, get in touch with our fabulous Pilates Instructors in the Art Of Pilates studio.