This month’s topic and focus in this session of Pilates is foot health. Do your little piggies go wee wee AHHHHH all the way home? If so read on and then come to classes or schedule a foot private session to learn valuable exercises to help with your foot pain or alignment problems.
Many changes occur in the feet as we go through life’s journey. Many use, overuse or misuse problems can cause changes in the shape of the foot, size and location of the fat pads on the bottom of the feet, the integrity of the skin and toenails, the health of the foot bones, range of motion of the joints, circulation and also the sensation of the feet. Good foot health is essential to your quality of movement and of life. Many foot problems can be avoided by proper prevention and early intervention.
Do you have knee, hip and low back problems that you haven’t been able to figure out the cause of ? Maybe looking down at your feet you may discover the source !
Common foot disorders:
- Hallux valgus– aka bunions. This is where the big toe drifts toward the other toes. A bunion may form on the outside edge of the knuckle of the big toe and occasionally the big toe may overlap the other toes. Bunions can also form on the outer side of the foot called bunionettes or tailors bunions, where the pinky toe can drift toward the other toes.
- Deformities of the lesser toes– In hammer toe, the middle joint of the toe sticks up to form a painful callous on top of the joint due to friction and pressure with the shoe.
- Degenerative joint diseases such as osteoarthritis– joint pain, weight-bearing, and joint tenderness with pressure may interfere with normal walking.
- Circulatory changes related to diabetes and vascular diseases such as arteriosclerosis narrowing of the blood vessels can affect the integrity of the skin and underlying soft tissues and compromise healing of open wounds.
Foot problems are often related to footwear, but in our society, as popular as this idea is, going barefoot is not a viable option in my opinion. We wear shoes for foot protection, sanitation , and fashion. Even in good, supportive shoes, our feet suffer because the muscles weaken from lack of use. On the other hand, shoes that do not adequately support the foot contribute to foot deformities and pain by : causing muscle weakness from disuse and allowing supportive ligaments of the foot to stretch, permanently affecting the foot’s structure.
Fashion, especially for women, is a major culprit. Narrow, pointed toes of shoes squish toes together, causing overlapping, pressure points, and decreased circulation. High heels further compromise the toes, decrease ankle stability, and force the ball of the foot to bear an excessive proportion of the body’s weight. In addition , long-term wearing of high heels can cause permanent shortening of the heel cord, the toe extensor muscles on the top of the foot, and supportive structures in the arch. Combined, these changes significantly alter the structure and functional capacity of the foot.
When the structure of the foot has changed this change affects the structures above. The forces that travel up your leg when you walk will travel differently up the leg and can cause problems at the knee, hip and low back. So taking care of your feet can help protect other areas of your body as well.
Proper conservative foot care is essential to prevent disuse and dysfunction that can eventually lead to debilitating foot problems. To maintain your healthy feet follow these steps:
- Check your feet: Look for changes in skin, color, shape/ position of joints, calluses. See a podiatrist if something doesn’t look right, especially if you have pain.
- Maintain proper weight: This relieves a lifetime of pressure on your feet.
- Wear well-fitting shoes: Over a lifetime, shoe size usually changes. Adjust accordingly. Wearing heels occasionally is ok but make sure the toe box is wide enough so that toes are not squished.
- Make sure to exercise your feet: walking, flexibility exercises, massage and resistive exercises, all can help decrease stiffness, decrease pain, improve joint motion, release tight tissues and help to realign foot structure.
Build exercises for your feet into your daily routine. It’s not that hard. Most exercises can be done while putting moisturizer on your feet or while sitting at your desk.
The long-term health of your feet is so important and prevention is key. So start now. Foot exercises on You Tube are many or you can come to a Pilates class or private session to get your own feet assessed and learn what exercises are best for you. Read back in this blog for my article on tennis ball stretches to start your own foot exercise routine.