The Health of Your Feet
Do You Know Your Feet?
When was the last time you checked in with your feet – including your toes? Have you looked at your feet lately? When was the last time you walked without socks and shoes? It is time to free your feet and take a good look at them and, more importantly, feel them! Increase your awareness of those poor feet. They are the most essential part of your body – at least that's what I think. Let me tell you why. When you walk and take a step, the foot is the first part of your body to hit or touch the ground. When that moment occurs, there are so many ways you can land on that foot. Whether you land correctly or incorrectly, it will affect the joints above the ankle (knee, hip, etc.) in a good or bad way. When you started to learn how to walk, this phenomenon has probably occurred without awareness – unless you have worked with health professionals like me. What happens to your feet will affect the rest of your body – that's why you need to get to know your feet. 🙂
Malin's Ankle Story
As a competitive runner in Sweden, I sprained my right ankle really bad two times. Unfortunately, I never got any physical therapy to make sure it would heal correctly. The repetitive incorrect movement finally caught up with me twenty years later. When I turned 40, the pain volume turned up so high that I could not sleep at night. My body yelled “STOP” and I finally listened to it. By coincidence, I started to learn about trigger release and it not only saved me and my ankle, but it also inspired me to develop my own training system – the Nordic Body System. After two weeks, I could sleep again without any ankle pain. I have used this proven system for over twenty years with Hollywood icons, Fortune 500 leaders, and everyday people. It is designed for the 50+ crowd to decrease pain, prevent injuries while getting a stronger body and mind. In 2021, I will turn 60 and I am stronger and, in less pain, than I was in my twenties. It boils down to listening and honoring the body and knowing what to do to make it feel better. If you want to learn more, contact me here.
Malin's Morning Routine
Before I get out of bed, I say hello to my feet – the most important part of my body that will carry me through the day.
- Sit on the edge of the bed with feet off the floor.
- Stretch/spread the toes (create space in-between the toes) and then do the opposite – curl the toes. Repeat this ten times.
- Circle the ankles in both directions.
- Move ankles gently back and forth. Try and have them track straight. Aim for a gentle stretch in both directions without cramping.
- Now stand up. Move the ankle joint into a neutral position. You do not want to have the weight on the outside of the ankle nor on the inside. Find a happy medium – that’s your neutral position.
- Feel how slightly rotating your thighs outward helps increase the arch of the foot. Feel how it also instantly wakes up your buttocks.
- Hold on to something sturdy. Load one leg (stand on one leg). Feel that the whole side is like a concrete pillar. Push down on the ground with the foot while you pull up to the ceiling through the crown (top of the head).
- Explore safely to balance on one leg without support.
- Now, you can start walking slowly to the bathroom. Feel those heels touch the ground as you roll onto the rest of the foot.
- After the bathroom visit. Pay attention to how the heels come off the floor as you push off with the ball of your foot.
Ok, I give you permission to put the socks and shoes on now that you have connected with your feet and connected with Mother Earth. Have a wonderful and grounded rest of the day.
Structure of the Foot
This is what our feet' bone structure looks like (see photo). The bone you will most likely recognize is the Calcaneous – the heel. In a perfect world of walking, you land with the heel, preferably in the center of the heel. Walk around barefoot on a hard surface to increase the sensitivity of your feet. Putting shoes on, we not only hide the feet, but we decrease the sensitivity. Some people even add orthotics in their shoes to help the arches either being too flat or too high. However, what happens when we don't walk with the shoes that have the added orthotics? It will be a slight shock to the feet – they have become lazy in relying on the orthotics. I do believe that orthotics can be beneficial at times. I have seen many good things happen to people's feet that one day was in pain, but they were out of pain with the correct orthotics.
The joint of the foot that we mainly talk about is called the ankle. It's the region where the foot meets the leg. The ankle is a complex mechanism. It comprises two joints: the subtalar joint and the ankle joint. The ankle joint consists of three bones; the tibia forms the inside or medial portion of the ankle; the fibula forms the lateral or outside part of the ankle; and the talus underneath. The ankle joint is responsible for the up-and-down motion of the foot. Beneath the ankle joint is the second part of the ankle, the subtalar joint, which consists of the talus on top and calcaneus on the bottom. The subtalar joint allows side-to-side motion of the foot.
Muscles Involved in the Foot and Ankle – There are too many muscles, tendons, and ligaments to mention (see photo). The most common and critical muscles and tendons I refer to in my training with clients are listed below, including their actions.
• The calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) connect to the calcaneus by the Achilles tendon. When the calf muscles tighten, they bend the ankle down. The action of pushing off as you walk. Like a calf raise – lifting the heel off the ground.
• The anterior tibialis muscle pulls the ankle upward. The action of pulling up the toes to land with the heel as you walk – to be able to clear the floor when walking and to avoid shuffling.
• The posterior tibialis muscle supports the arch and helps turn the foot inward.
• The peroneal muscles (peroneus longus and peroneus brevis) on the outside edge of the ankle and foot bend the ankle down and out.
Time to Explore Your Feet!
Lie Down: Let's start exploring your feet lying down. Lie down flat on the floor. Close your eyes, and let the feet relax. Pay attention to your heels. Compare the right to the left foot. Does one touch the floor more than the other? Is one heel touching the floor more on the outside of the heel? This is a little bit of Feldenkrais – it's like exploring your body and paying attention to tiny details. It may drive some of us crazy but to do it just once is fun and a surprising experience. So give it a try! Make a mental note of your findings.
Stand: Time to stand up and explore your feet. Preferably, get in front of a mirror so you can observe the feet through the mirror. How do the feet look? Are all ten toes pointing straight ahead? Is one foot turned out? Are the feet even, or is one ahead of the other? How are your arches? Are they flat or high? Do you have any toes overlapping? Do you have any hammer toes (curled up)? Do you have any bunions? Probably if you have an overlapping big toe. Just observe the feet and become familiar with them. Sounds silly, right? Yes, but those who know me very well know that I can be playful AND serious as well. Here is the serious part. What happens to our feet will affect the rest of the body! Now I've gotten your attention. If your arches cave in, guess what? Your knees will most likely also cave in, and yes, your hips too. So please pay attention to those feet of yours and don't take them for granted.
Balance: When you walk, there is a split of a moment where you are on only one leg. That's why balance is critical for a functional walk to prevent injuries and pain. Usually, I have my clients stand in front of a mirror to get the ankles neutral before loading the leg. Use some support if you see the arch collapse. Then move to less support until you can balance on one leg for at least 3 seconds. Build that 3 seconds up to 10 and finally to 30 seconds. This will stabilize the ankles and increase the ankles' proprioception – meaning you don't have to look down each time you take a step, but you can still communicate with your feet while moving around. This telepathic communication is going to transfer into a steadier and healthier walk. Now we may even be able to do some light jumping (plyometric) to build the stability even more.
Walk: Now walk around and feel how you land with the heels. Then bring your attention to how you roll onto the rest of the foot. (Walking backward can enhance this feeling, so it's easier to apply walking forward.) And lastly, how you push off with the ball of the foot. Buy walking shoes based on these three stages during your gait (walk): round heel, stability in the middle, the flexibility of the front part of the shoe.
I have had the privilege of working as a personal fitness trainer with the 50+ population for close to 30 years. It's been an excellent observation of what can happen if you listen or don't listen to your body. Good things can happen when you don't give up and stay stubborn about seeking alternatives when an injury persists. I've seen incredible clients adjust and accept instead of giving up. If you don't maintain the muscles strong and flexible around the ankle, it's been my experience that the inflexibility prevents you from moving through a normal gait, and you may start shuffling, taking shorter steps, and compensating with turning the feet out too much which we did when we started to walk as a toddler to keep the balance. I don't suggest any dramatic changes, just increased awareness. I hope this article has given you some ideas, with which you can start working. Please feel free to always contact us at [email protected]
The goal is to create a community of wisdom. Please share your story! Contact us and let us know about your feet and ankle problems and how you have solved your pain/problem. Was there a special procedure? Is there a referral to a health professional? Medical doctor? Physical Therapist? Chiropractor? Acupuncture? Massage Therapist? etc.
Thirty-Day Focus – The Health of Your Feet
Make this month your priority to take care of your feet and ankles. If you have ignored them, let me remind you of the fact that you will need them for a very long time, so you better start paying attention to them! Stop hiding them in your socks and shoes. Free your Feet in thirty-days! Silly yes, but there's also a slight seriousness – it's me, your guys!
As a fitness expert for 30 years for the 50+ population, I have witnessed fantastic progress and results for people that have stayed consistent over time. I’m sure you can see how it’s all related. Weak bones and weak muscles equal pain. Strong bones and strong muscles equal less pain and more quality of life.
According to ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), strength training should be performed at least twice a week with 8-10 different exercises that target all major muscle groups. And of course, you must do them correctly to avoid injuries. And that is exactly what the Nordic Body System is all about.
Get a taste of the Nordic Body System and join one of our three online memberships: EXPERIENCE, COMMIT and TRANSFORM. You can join for a month or for a whole year, just make sure you start today.