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June 6, 2022

Our Feet, Our Foundation!

Our Feet, Our Foundation! I've gotten a lot of feedback and questions about the feet in the last few weeks after I published my blogs on bunions. This week I wanted to talk about why our feet are so important for our overall health and wellness. Our feet are literally our foundation. They are the […]

Our Feet, Our Foundation!

I've gotten a lot of feedback and questions about the feet in the last few weeks after I published my blogs on bunions. This week I wanted to talk about why our feet are so important for our overall health and wellness.

Our feet are literally our foundation.

They are the first thing that contacts the floor once we stand up and become weight-bearing. In addition to housing and maintaining the function of the muscles and joints that exist in our feet, there are also lots of nerves in our feet. Those nerves carry information to our brain and spinal cord that informs our brains about the structures of the environment around us.

If we are walking uphill, the nerves in the feet sense the stretch in the bottom of the feet from the hill and they begin to turn on the muscles that we use to raise our leg as we walk up the hill. If we are on uneven terrain, the nerves in the feet send messages to the brain and spinal cord that activate the stabilizing muscles in our hips that help to support us on uneven surfaces.

This is part of what makes the feet so important. As they encounter the ground around us, our feet send messages that help the rest of our body prepare for the environment that we are in. This is one of the reasons for the minimalist and barefoot trend emerging over the last 5 to 10 years. Much of our common footwear these days does not allow our feet to flex and bend and splay with the changes in our terrain. That limits the information coming in from the feet and makes our ankle, hip, and core muscles less able to anticipate the needs of the body.

Tightness in the feet and ankles can also limit this information. That is why foot and ankle mobility is so important. If your foot and ankle cannot bend and twist and splay, then those messages never get to the brain and spinal cord.

So this means there are two needs that our foot and ankle have to properly get our body ready to move.

  • The foot and ankle need to have adequate range of motion to gather the information from our environment.
  • And secondly the foot and ankle need the exposure to the environment so that the information can be gathered.

In this blog, I will discuss how to make sure your foot and ankle get good exposure to the environment.

In my next blog, I will be going over how to make sure your foot and ankle have proper mobility.

How to ensure your feet and ankles have proper exposure to your surroundings

The best way to make sure that your foot is able to sense the ground and the environment around you is to make sure that your footwear allows this to occur. This is why I recommend minimalist shoes for most feet.

  • A big requirement for a shoe to be considered minimalist is just simply that it's actually shaped like a foot. Most of the common popular footwear, for some reason, (fashion? style?) is not actually shaped like our feet. Mostly shoes are not wide enough near the toes. This doesn't allow our foot to spread as we bear weight.
  • The second requirement of minimalist footwear is to not have excessive cushioning. This will depend on what you are using the shoe for; e.g., a running shoe will need to have more cushioning than a shoe that you use just to work out or for regular daily activities.

When Minimalist shoes first came out, cushioning was thought to be bad, no matter what. And in my opinion, this is what caused many people to dislike minimalist shoes. Let's face it: If you are a marathon runner -- you're going to need some cushion. Thankfully, now minimalist shoes come with a wide range of features.

My recommendations for good Minimalist shoes for everyday use are the New Balance Minimus line, the Merrell vapor gloves, and splay shoes. These are really good shoes for going to work, working out, or walking or hiking. The links to find these shoes are below.

If you're looking for good Minimalist shoes for endurance sports like running, trail running, or long distance walking, I recommend Altra shoes and Topos. These are great foot-shaped shoes with no build-up in the heel and with good cushioning. The links to these shoes are below.

These shoes are a great first step to getting the most out of your foundation.

Additionally - and actually very importantly: I also recommend just walking barefoot in the grass as often as you can. Wake those feet up! Your body will thank you!

And remember, you can always check with me here at Movement Laboratory about any of your foot questions ---we're here at 918.300.4084 or dr.john@movlabtulsa.com.

Be sure to watch for my next blog about ensuring MOBILITY of your feet. It's a critical issue - and there are things you can do to increase your ability to move well on your feet!

Dr. John Keefe IV
Article written by Dr. John H. Keefe IV

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