Dancers, athletes, runners, yoga practitioners, rolfers, bodyworkers, Pilates practitioners….you name them….we all use our feet as work tools.
Well, in fact all of humanity and mammal kingdom does to some extent. Reflexology, thai massage, podiatry, acupressure, pedicure….so many modalities are, if not fully; at least partly, dedicated to foot maintenance, wellbeing, care & health.
Feet are the body part upon which our whole bodily structure rests. They connect us to the ground, to the Earth.
Some bodyworkers, therapists and/or movement practitioners (arguably) insist that patterns of the body all begin with the feet: how we place them, how we use them, how strong, flexible and *healthy* they are.
Facts about feet: did you know that:
- Each foot & ankle has 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments.
- An approximate figure for nerve endings in the foot is: 7,800 (per foot). These all branch out & connect to the Central nervous system and to the peripheral nervous system.
- All the muscles of the lower leg (except one: the popliteus located towards the back of the knee) are attached to the bones of the foot (Can you see the link: foot-knee) therefore while studying the foot, the study of the muscles and skeleton of the lower leg is almost essential to understand the role and work of the foot.
- The ankle joint is formed between: the tibia, fibula and the talus bones. They form a mortise.
- The bony architecture of the foot includes a number of arches that are reinforced by ligaments and influenced by muscles.
- 3 arches: 2 longitudinal, 1 (arguably more than 1) transverse
- One arch is in charge of transmitting the force of the body weight to the ground (medial longitudinal arch)
- Both longitudinal arches are in charge of absorbing shock loads and of balancing the whole body.
- The 3rd type of arch of the foot, the transverse provides stability to the mid-foot and during certain range of motion of the foot.
- All of our toes are connected (via ligaments & tendons) to our anterior & posterior calves muscles
- The well known Achilles Tendon is the tendon that attaches the soleus muscle (posterior muscle of the calf that originates in the fibula near the knee joint) to the calcaneus bone (ia heel)
- The feet can do: plantar flexion (pointing) , dorsiflexion (flexing), eversion (towards the outside) and inversion (towards the inside) and ankle rotation.
- Most mammals walk on their “fingers” & “toes” (permanent pointe work! Ouch!)
The foot is a very complex bony structure, isn’t it.
How to care and work with the feet:
If you can: going for regular massage, reflexology, pedicures, acupressure etc….is wonderful.
- Massage the feet with warm (organic sesame/ olive/ Ayurvedic) oil for 2 to 10 minutes daily (my Ayurvedic doctor once explained to me that one must at the very least massage one’s feet daily without a fail) unless one is recommend not to for medical reasons.
- Weekly (well daily if you can!) epsom salts or magnesium salts warm bath with a drop or 2 of essential oil such as lavender, tea tree or neroli. Soak your feet up to ankle level for 20 minutes. It is really easy to do and you can even sit and enjoy doing something while doing it or just sit back and relax.
- Scrubbing with an organic scrub at least 3 times a week
- Exfoliating the heel and rough area with a natural pumice stone (avoid the metal one)
- Filing the nails with a crystal file (it is not as expensive as it sounds) it is a bit more agreeable than the metal ones.
- Apply organic moisturising cream (I use Shea butter that I alternate with organic feet cream) daily (you can even wear a pair of cotton socks set aside for this purpose only for a few hours to a whole night to keep the moisture on longer)
- Massage your feet daily (apparently we take as much as 5000 steps every day: they deserve a bit of love daily!) even if only for 5 minutes. To increase the pressure you may use a golf or tennis ball or any wooden foot massage tool.
- For the ladies: apply nail polish and do your at home pedicure if you like to have your toes nails colored!
- Treat yourself at least every 2 months to a foot treatment.
I really like to warm my feet up before I practise Yoga (although, arguably; before Yoga, no warm up is absolutely necessary), dance or even at the beginning of my day. I immediately feel my feet more spread out and grounded in the ground and invariably I feel my pelvis more stable.
- Ankle stretch
- Toes stretch
- Toes swapping (if you dare to, this one is particularly strong and difficult)
- Rotations of ankle
- Strengthening of the plantar fascia: stretching the soles in forward and back bends.
I also like to do a simple little stretch/ massage: one foot at a time: sitting up, one leg straight, the other one bent with the part just above the ankle resting on the straight leg so my ankle is free to rotate (knee bent 90 degrees). 1st I stretch each of my toes between each of my fingers and I then rotate my ankle in both directions and I stretch my foot forward and back too, then I place my foot flat on the floor with my knee bent, with my knuckles, I massage for 1 or 2 minutes my whole foot, including, the sole, the ankle area, and my whole calf up to the knee. This little exercise that was given to me by a bodyworker works wonder in stretching the whole fascia of the feet and the calves and in grounding the feet down.
Whenever you stretch your foot, think of the whole foot. For instance an ankle rotation must be about the whole “foot muscles” creating the rotation. And so on for any motion. It is the muscles that are exercising not the joints!! Then you will feel the muscles of the calf working as well in fact.
Think about creating space in the joints of the foot whenever you exercise can also be useful.
See you foot as a working unit rather than one segment working at a time.
Of course walking barefoot in nature is wonderful too. However, a city dweller ought to have their own little tips and knacks & given how complex & essential they are, feet are worth investing a little bit of time & care every day!
Photo credit: the Anatomy coloring book
Any of the alternative therapies suggested in this article cannot be used in replacement of appropriate medical advice & care when needed.
Copyrights Nathalie Hrayssi, Yogalondres, nathaliehrayssi.com