There are 26 bones in a human foot—one quarter of all the bones in the body! There are 33 joints and 100 muscles that support, balance, and mobilize the rest of the body located in the feet. Those 33 joints are capable of millions of micro-movements (articulations) when they are functional, strong, and balanced.

Because we have encased our feet in padded comfortable casts (shoes), most of us have reduced the articulations of those 33 joints from millions to a handful. A pigmy can run barefoot with ease through the jungle over rocks and thorns because these structures within their feet have hardened, yet remain mobile to conform to the varied textures of their environment. The bone density of that foot is very strong, as opposed to a standard American, whose foot will break easily from a minor traumatic event—as it’s the most sedentary, and one of the weakest parts of a shoe-wearer’s body.

It’s spring—time to take your feet to the “gym.” Weak feet need a slow transition. Shoes with any kind of heel start to restrict your foot’s ability to hinge (dorsiflexion). Get a pair of minimal shoes. I like Converse, but there are lots of great shoes available. Remember, weak feet don’t like contact with flat surfaces like sidewalks, hardwood floors, or concrete slabs with rugs. Weak feet love a varied terrain with slopes, rocks, uphill and downhill, valleys, and mounds.

Have access to a backyard or a hiking trail? You have to start slow—even five minutes a day—letting your feet strengthen and stretch to the stresses of that new incremental challenge. Gradual strengthening is most effective.

You can mobilize the 26 foot bones by rolling your tootsies on a tennis ball, or a pile of river rocks in the back yard. For folks with a high arch, the mid-foot bones are domed, so they need a downward, mobilizing force—from a human hand or the soft arch of your other foot.

The functional foot is like a leaf-spring (shock absorber). As the foot takes the full weight of the body when walking, the arch should flatten to absorb and collect energy. As you break over at the forefoot, that collected energy helps propel the foot forward. When you have a high arch, especially with any kind of arch support, you’ve locked the mid-foot into the domed position and the joint capsules “glue” those bones into that position. There goes your leaf-springs. Try taking the shock absorbers off of your car; within a short period of time, your fenders will begin to crack.

It’s spring, so get those dogs on the earth. Listen to your body. When your feet are telling you they’ve had enough, stop. When you get sore, cut back for a day or two and adjust the pace of the challenge. Your ankles, knees, and back will thank you for returning your feet to the fully functional, bio-mechanical miracles they were designed to be.

To that end, we will be doing a complete seminar on feet  through: the Therapeutic Corrective series—taught at Jala Yoga.

: Chris Crawford and Lori Robertson
Chris and Lori own and operate Capstone Method, with offices in Shepherdstown (WV) and Winchester (VA). Call Chris at 540-270-7601 and/or Lori at 540-336-4737.

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