|Five steps to healthier feet|
|Thursday, 26 January 2012 11:17|
Your foot is a complex feat of engineering and a critical element in how you stand, walk, and balance. Of all the many body parts, your feet are likely the most neglected. One in four people over the age of 45 have foot pain, and approximately one in six have ankle problems. These numbers ignore many other health ailments that stem from achy, painful feet.
Besides the obvious issues of the toes, arch, and plantar fascia, foot pain can become a much larger, whole-body health issue. Two-thirds of people with chronic foot pain have reported some sort of disability elsewhere in their lives, such as decreasing balance while walking or standing, increasing osteoarthritis in the knees and hips, or prevention from starting or maintaining a healthy walking program.
The great thing about foot health is that it takes just a little effort to make great improvements. Here are five ways to drastically improve the functioning of your feet:
1. Exercise your feet.
All muscles, including foot muscles, need regular exercise to stay healthy. Pay attention to the muscles that make the foot arch or the ones that move the toes. Foot exercise is simple, with no initial need to get out of a chair. Slip off your shoes and socks and begin lifting each toe individually.
2. Spread the toes.
Toe abduction – movement of the toes away from each other – is a normal part of a healthy gait pattern. Years of carrying weight too far forward on the feet, wearing too-small shoes as a kid, and too narrow pointed-toe shoes can limit toe spreading motion. Footwear that provides ample room to splay your toes while walking is the healthiest choice. Ideally toes should spread just like fingers. If tight toes have become habitual, foot alignment socks can help spread the toes. You can work on restoring muscle and tissue lengths while watching television at night.
3. Get rid of the heel.
For every positive degree of heel (for example, the one inch heel on a man's dress shoe creates an average angle of twelve degrees), there is a resulting angle of deformation in the lumbar spine, pelvis, knees and ankle. If a man's dress shoe can create twelve positive degrees, imagine how a multi-inch stiletto can deform the rest of the body? Avoid selecting footwear that increases mechanical stress on a cellular level.
4. Be attached to your shoes.
The flip-flop slipper is a popular fashion staple, usually enjoyed for their lack of restriction and minimal friction. One big drawback however is that the flip-flop stays on your foot only with major muscle clenching and bone alteration. Research on gait patterns and poorly attached shoes demonstrates increased risk for hammer toes, plantar fasciitis and knee pain with flip-flops. Keep your favorite flip-flop around for beach activities, and invest in the newer Roman-style sandals that offer the same open-air feel, with better binding.
5. Going barefoot is a necessity!
Optimal foot health is ultimately reached through full, shoeless interaction. Walking barefoot (wearing socks is okay, too) can be done in your home. However, going barefooted on long walks after a lifetime of wearing footwear can strain muscles. It is important to think about building strength in the musculature of the feet just as we would with any other part of our body that has gone unused. Start short-range barefoot walking, and make sure you do lots of foot stretching in-between walking sessions.
Katy Bowman, MS, is the author of "Every Woman's Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet," (BenBella).
|Last Updated on Thursday, 26 January 2012 11:24|