If you’re thinking that feet are my favorite subject, you could be right. I definitely think that adaptable, responsive feet are a vital component in healthy posture. By adaptable, I mean feet that are able to move--not just to take steps, but also to spread and clasp, to wriggle and writhe and bounce. They can sense the ground and respond to it.
75% of people in the US have foot pain at some time in their lives. This is because our feet are the most misunderstood sensory organs in our bodies. Yes, organs! For all our technological advances, we still have caveman feet, designed to palpate the ground for twigs and pebbles, slipperiness and traction, textures and vibrations.
Most of us, like the people in the video below, spend our days walking on hard, flat surfaces. If your feet were like ears, they would able to hear only one sound. Pretty soon they’d stop listening, preferring to be deaf. Shoe muffle your perception of the ground even more.
Because we so seldom walk on natural terrain, most of the 36 joints in each foot have nothing to do. So your feet become less and less mobile. And because everything in your body is connected through your fascial network to everything else, the stiffness in the feet is transmitted upward, distorting the movement of your knees, hips and spine. Eventually lack of foot mobility turns into into pain, if not in the feet themselves, then somewhere up the line.
Since, as Joanie Mitchell sang, we’ve "paved paradise, and put in a parking lot,” most of us have little choice about where we walk on a daily basis. But we can give our feet some extra TLC to make up for what we put them through.
Dedicated Foot Time
You can do the self-massage in the accompanying video while you’re watching a movie. I’ve even done it while reading in bed, which gives the hip joints an extra treat as well. The massage restores movement to your forefoot and toes. And when you restore movement, you restore your ability to sense the ground. Stand up to notice how each foot feels after you work with it. This moment of awareness helps your sensory cortex build a more complex mapping of your feet.
Of course tomorrow you'll go back out onto the flat world. So tomorrow night, better give your feet another few minutes of dedicated “foot time”. You want them to last, but they won’t if you take them for granted.
Another approach to foot self-care is the takafumi I talked about in a previous post. Since that post was written, these bamboo foot massagers are available through several online retailers. And, be sure to check out my online foot workshop—it will help you get to know and respect your feet even more.
Whenever you can, give your feet something interesting to adapt and respond to--take them out for a raw, unshod taste of some unpaved, natural terrain .