Most people neglect their feet because they forget about them, until they start to hurt. Foot problems can cause muscle strain, posture problems, back ache, fatigue, cramps and pain. When your feet hurt it is tough to think about taking care of the rest of your body. You may feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, but it's your feet that carry you around. When your feet hurt nothing works. You stop exercising because you hurt. It is an effort to move anywhere. It is even hard to smile because your feet hurting.
Putting feet health first can do wonders for your health, because foot troubles don't stop with your feet. Faulty foot function can throw other parts of your body out of line. It can cause or contribute to headaches, lower back pain, leg cramps, fatigue and poor circulation(to just name a few).
Our feet absorb the constant impact and protect our bodies from jarring. We expect our feet to support us through long hours of standing, walking or running. We wear all manner of footwear - ill-fitting, high heels, non-supportive, toe-squashing, non-breathable - that don’t help our feet... all in the name of fashion.
Let’s look at the foot:
The foot and ankle contain:
- 26 individual bones
- 33 joints
- Ligaments (tissues that connect bones to other bones)
- More than 100 muscles
- Blood vessels
- Skin & tissue
There are 20 muscles in the foot that give the foot its shape by holding the bones in position and expand and contract to impart movement. The main muscles of the foot are:
- the anterior tibial, which enables the foot to move upward;
- the posterior tibial, which supports the arch;
- the peroneal tibial, which controls movement on the outside of the ankle;
- the extensors, which help the ankle raise the toes to initiate the act of stepping forward; and
- the flexors, which help stabilize the toes against the ground.
- Smaller muscles enable the toes to lift and curl.
There are elastic tissues (tendons) in the foot that connect the muscles to the bones and joints. The largest and strongest tendon of the foot is the Achilles tendon, which extends from the calf muscle to the heel. Its strength and joint function facilitate running, jumping, walking up stairs, and raising the body onto the toes. Ligaments hold the tendons in place and stabilize the joints. The longest of these, the plantar fascia, forms the arch on the sole of the foot from the heel to the toes. By stretching and contracting, it allows the arch to curve or flatten, providing balance and giving the foot strength to initiate the act of walking. Medial ligaments on the inside and lateral ligaments on outside of the foot provide stability and enable the foot to move up and down.
Let’s take a look at what kind of foot you have:
Low Arch/Flat Foot: The pronator type of foot rolls far inward during the weight-bearing phase of the stride. This foot type is characterized by a very low or flat arch. Heavier people often have feet in this category.
High Arch Foot: The supinator type of foot restricts the impact of the stride largely to the outer edges of the foot. This is often due to a very high, rigid arch.
Normal Arch Foot: The neutral type of foot is between the pronator and supinator types. It is the most common foot type. Runners with a neutral type of foot lands on the heel and rolls forward during the gait cycle until the impact is distributed evenly across the forefoot.
This type of information is important to know when purchasing shoes. People who pronate(flat feet) need shoes with more stability. Supinators (high arch) need more cushion and flexibility.
How often should we replace our shoes?
When to replace your gym shoes is almost as important as the type of shoe that is right for you. A worn out gym shoe may not look worn at all, but the cushioning inside the shoe becomes compressed. When this happens, the shoe can no longer absorb shock when you exercise, or just walk around. This can create injury if left too long. My personal opinion is if you exercise or wear them everyday, replace your shoes every 6 months or sooner.
Another method: The midsoles (bottom cushiony part of the shoe) tend to lose their effectiveness after 600 miles or 600 hours of use, depending on how much you weigh and the material used in the shoe. This method is fine, but it's also important to note that shoes have a "shelf-life." The midsole will eventually lose its ability to absorb shock, even if the shoes haven't been worn for several years. Yes, shoes should have expiration dates. When buying shoes be sure to get this years models.
Remember, brands and styles change every year, so the shoe that works for you this year might not be the best shoe for you next year.
There are so many different styles of shoes that it is sometimes difficult to choose. Each sport has shoes designed for specific demands. Athletic shoes protect the feet from the stresses of a given sport. If you take part in a sport three or more times per week, it is likely you need a shoe designed for that sport. For gym use a running or cross training shoe may work best for you, most importantly is that it must fit your type of foot.
• Running shoes: Running shoes should be lightweight and have cushioning to absorb the impact of each stride. Running should also be fitted to how your foot is shaped.
• Walking shoes: Walking shoes are more rigid then running shoes and designed to roll from heel to toe.
• Basketball shoes: Basketball shoes have a thick stiff sole and must provide more side to side ankle support for sudden starts and stops. Basketball shoes need support on the inside and the outside of your foot and ankle.
• Tennis and other racquet sport shoes: These must also allow for the quick side-to-side movements and support on the inside and outside of the foot.
• Field sport shoes: These usually have cleats, spikes, or studs. Track and field shoes need to meet the needs of the person, as do other specialty sport shoes such as those for golf and bicycling.
Basic Rules when purchasing shoes:
• Try on shoes at the end of the day or after a workout because feet have a tendency to swell.
• Have both feet measured, being sure to stand and having your weight evenly divided on both feet. Feet get larger as you grow older. If your feet are different sizes, get the shoes size that fits your larger foot.
• Wear the same type of sock you will be wearing most often.
• Try on both shoes and walk or jog in them.
• Make sure there is one-half inch between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
• Make sure your heel does not slip.
• Make sure the shoe is comfortable right away. There should be no "breaking in" period.
Being Overweight can be the cause of many foot problems.
Research has found that having too much body weight may increase your chances of a variety of painful conditions in the feet, including:
- Tendon inflammation
- Inflammation in the plantar fascia, the tough band of tissue in the sole of your foot
- Flat Foot
Being overweight makes you more likely to develop several conditions that can lead to foot pain and other problems, such as:
Gout. This condition is known for causing sharp, severe pain, typically in the big toe. It can also affect other joints in your feet and ankles. Gout develops when crystals of a substance called uric acid accumulate in your joints. Being overweight makes you more likely to develop gout by increasing the production of uric acid in your body, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Diabetes. Being overweight is one of the main factors that raise your risk of diabetes. Diabetes can cause numbness in your feet and can reduce the amount of blood flow that reaches your feet. As a result, you may develop small injuries without noticing them, and these injuries may heal very slowly and develop infections. These can grow into serious problems that can even lead to the loss of your feet. In one year, more than 70,000 people with diabetes had to have a foot or lower leg surgically removed.
Peripheral arterial disease. This condition is marked by an accumulation of plaque in the walls of arteries in the legs. As a result, the flow of blood to the feet is reduced. Being overweight is a preventable risk factor for peripheral arterial disease, according to the American Heart Association.
These simple foot exercises will ease away the stress of the day and keep your feet in good working order. Start doing them seated and then progress to standing while you do the exercises.
- Toe Raises: Start with feet flat on the floor; lift the heels as high as you can and push the backs of the toes against the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and lower. Repeat 5 times each foot.
- Toe Points: Be the ballet dancer and stretch your foot out into a beautiful point. Hold for 5 seconds and relax. Repeat 5 times with each foot.
- Big Toe Action: Put a thick rubber band around both your big toes. Keeping your feet level, pull your feet apart, away from each other sideways. Hold for 5 seconds and relax. Repeat 10 times.
- Sole massage: Put a tennis or golf ball under your foot on the ground. Roll your foot around with moderate pressure on the ball to effectively massage the whole of the sole of your foot. This one is great for relieving tension.
- Pick it up: Lay 10 marbles on the floor. Stand up, if you can, and pick up one marble at a time using your toes, and put it into a small bowl. Repeat with the other foot.
- Pen Drop: Drop a pen or a pencil on the floor. Pick it up with your toes, trying to grasp the pen with all your toes at once.
- Towel Crumple: Have a small towel on the floor. Using one foot, crumple it into a ball by pulling it towards you with your toes.
- Sand Walking: Whenever you can, walk barefoot in the sand.
- Ankle Circles: Lift your leg so your foot is off the floor, knee straight. Make large, slow circles in the air with your big toe, for 10 circles in each direction. Repeat with the other foot.
- Heel Toe Rock: Sit with both feet flat on the floor. Rock your feet to alternatively raise your heels and toes from the floor. Repeat 10 times with each foot. This is a great one to do periodically, if you have to stand for long periods.
I hope this information gives you some insight on the feet, how important it is to wear the proper shoes and how to care for your feet. There are so many foot conditions, if your feet hurt please consult your physician…if caught early many foot problems can be corrected. -Jackie