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12 Steps For Healthier Feet

2018 is coming to an end and we would like to offer you some free tips(who despite the theme, don’t stink) during the Holiday Seasons that will help you live a healthier life and possibly fix some aches and pain you might be having.
​Hope this help. We appreciate comments, anecdotes and stories you might have regarding a specific tip.  Happy Holidays!

 TIP #1: Avoid Shoes with a High “Heel to Toe” Offset

Most of us love a good looking pair of shoes, maybe dressy or high heels. The problem is that most modern shoes are not designed to be functional and do not allow your foot to perform the way nature intended. On the long term, they are not functional. So what is a Heel to Toe offset you might ask?  
Heel to toe offset is the amount of drop from your heel to your toes within the shoe. 
The higher the offset (think high heels and stilettos), the higher the stress placed on our feet and lower legs. This makes us standing and walking in an unnatural way. It also has terrible consequences for your low back health in the long run. Humans are designed to walk around with little to no offset (i.e. barefoot is a zero offset).

TIP #2: Spend More Time Working On Your Balance

Our feet are relatively small but they are tasked with supporting a large and constantly shifting mass above them. It’s actually baffling that we all don’t walk around with foot & ankle pain 24/7! Balance and agility are as important as strengthening, and making sure you work on them not only reduce the chance of injury such as an ankle sprain or fracture, but also allow the body to function in a more efficient manner. As we get older in our golden years, our balance naturally deteriorates thus making a fall more likely to occur. This can have devastating consequences, particularly in the older population. Maintaining appropriate balance is critical.

Simply balancing on one leg for 30-60 seconds will help strengthen your foot and lower leg muscles, but also help improve your overall balance.

TIP #3: Stretch Your Calf

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We spend a greta part of our life ( for some not enough) walking. Many people use walking as their main mean of exercise. But frankly, most of us have poor flexibility in the muscles, tendons and/or joints in the ankle and foot and our lower limbs. Only because we never take the time to stretch them. Research has demonstrated that numerous painful conditions which impact the foot & ankle are either caused or influenced by tightness. By taking the time to stretch every day, or at least several times a week, we can improve our mobility and allow the body to move in a more efficient manner, decreasing abnormal loading of tissues, like your Achilles tendon for exemple, which can reduce the chances of developing a painful condition which will impact your daily function. 

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So next time you catch yourself yawning and stretching your arms and back in the morning( which we all do…to various degrees), don’t forget to give your calves and feet some love by stretching 😉

TIP #4: Replace your footwear regularly

If you are a runner and if it has been more than 4 months since you changed running shoes, then it is time to make a trip to the running store. If you run more than 4
times a week, check the bottom of your shoes to see how much wear and tear you can see. Just like your car tire,  your shoes “thread” need monitoring.

 TIP #5: Wear Flat Shoes With Room For Your Toes

Unfortunately, most shoes, even athletic shoes, are built up with too much heel and to enough space for your toes to move and function the way they should. Think heels and dressy “pointy” shoes. This is a standard in the industry, but it is far from ideal.
When looking for shoes, whether it be athletic, dress, or work, try to find a shoe with as little elevation in the heel and the most room for your toes. I understand some women want to wear heels, especially for a night on the town. For short periods, you are OK, but I do not advise it for long term wear.
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TIP #6: Strengthen your Calves and Ankles

By strengthening the muscles in the foot and ankle the likelihood of developing injuries such as an ankle sprain or those associated with repetitive overuse syndromes decreases significantly. The calf muscles get generally most of the attention when it comes to strengthening in this region of the body. Here is one way to strengthen your calves:

TIP #7: Strengthen your Toes and Ankles

Strengthening your toes helps keep a normal gait pattern, prevent excessive repetitive stress and load on other joints, helps maintain a normal arch ( your foot type and what your foot looks like when you bear weight cannot be attributed to your genetics/ family history only). A strong foot helps your knee and hip move and perform better.

Here is a variant of the exercise shown on previous tip: It addresses strength in your calf while assisting in strengthening your toe extensors and keeping the mobility of your toes, which is required for normal walking.

 TIP #8: Strengthen your toes & arch

The muscle and tendons that curl your toe assist in maintaining the natural arch of your foot. Keeping you flexors hallucinate braves and longus, flexor digitorum longus and your lumbricals strong are essentials for the health and normal mobility of your foot. Remember your feet’s function is to hold and support significant weight from the rest of your body. What do you think happened to them if the arch becomes weak and overstretch?
This simple exercise is often overlook:

TIP #9: Strengthen Your Toes !

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As mentioned earlier, your feet are your base.
Your base must remain strong for the rest of your body to be. Most shoes, because of the excessive sole, cushioning and the lack of space for your toes, cause the muscles in our feet and lower legs to become weak and not function optimally. Not wearing shoes is not really an option in the modern world,  and although we can all walk around barefoot at home to keep our feet strong, we then need to actively work at keeping our feet strong.

Here are a few exercises to help you do so. They might seem easy but are not. You might initially need the assistance of your hand to perform. You might feel minimal motion or control at first but with practice, strength and mobility will improve.
Stay Tune for Tips #10 tomorrow for a tip that will assist you progress faster with these exercises.

Big Toe Flexion: Start by raise up all toes while keeping your heel and ball of the foot  on the floor. Then lower the big toe to the floor, keeping all other toes up.
 Arch up: Keeping foot flat on the floor, try to elevate your arch higher. Do this without scrunching your toes or turning your knee out. ( see previous post)
Big Toe Extension: With your foot flat on the floor, raise your big toe while keeping other toes, and heel on floor.

Big Toe and Little Toe Flexion: Keeping ball of foot and heel down, raise up all toes. Now lower your little toe to the floor while keeping the other toes up. One the little toe is down, lower the big one to the floor. When done properly, your foot should be on floor with big and little toes down with the middle three elevated. This is super hard to do and will require practice.

TIP #10: LET YOUR TOES SPLAY!

 We cram our feet for most of the day in shoes that squeeze our toes together excessively, preventing them to move, splay naturally and function normally in supporting our body when weight bearing and walking. This being the source of many lower extremity dysfunctions, including bunions amongst other problems.
One way to pamper our feet and let them function the way they were meant to is to remove your shoes and walk barefoot after torturing your feet in narrow shoes all day. If the exercises from the previous post are difficult and you think you have poor dexterity with your toes, wearing toe spreaders can help regain mobility and motor control as they promote recruitment of your toe and feet muscles by keeping them in a splayed position. It takes time getting used to at first.
I have personally used toe spreaders and within 2 short months, my feet mobility improved significantly, along with my balance.
Of course, they are not a substitute for the exercises previously described but are a good adjunct.

TIP #11: PAMPER YOUR FEET!

Our feet are designed to be robust, accept load from our body weight and are our anchor to the ground. Like you would stretch your back, your hips, shoulder or neck, they need sometimes a little loving to stay healthy, strong flexible and pliable all at the same time.
Using a foam roller and lacrosse ball can help you self massage and move the area that can typically get sore. Not only from running…but also from plain old walking and standing.
 Good options are  *rolling your foot with a lacrosse ball ( or firm rubber ball, firm enough to put pressure for a good massage/ golf ball are too hard) on bottom, sides and top even.              
 *For painful and sore feet, freeze a water bottle and roll your foot back and forth on it.

Using a foam roller to roll all aspect of your calf ( back, outside/ inside and even shins) will help keep these muscles supple,
especially after a hard workout, long days on your feet, our hiking  your favorite trail.  These technique is even better if followed by calf stretch discussed in

* You can also use a lacrosse ball in the same manner, “rolling out” tight and tender spots.
Most people that are already doing the above work on bottom of feet and their calf but often forget to stretch your toes one by one, through their entire range of motion ( up, down and sideways). Don’t be that person.

TIP #12: Get Assessed by A Physical Therapist

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  • Physical therapists are movement specialist with postgraduate degrees that are trained to evaluate posture, gait,  movement patterns, joint  and soft tissue restrictions, strength and  balance restrictions,  and some nerve dysfunctions that are causing and/or contributing to your pain or dysfunction. PTs use different manual therapy techniques, corrective  exercises, and teach you how to address your  specific problem to allow you to return to your prior level of function, pain free, without prescription of pain medication.
  • A physical therapist can get to the root of your ankle and foot problem. Everyone is unique and has their own combination of strengths and weaknesses that lead to injury. 
  • Being assessed by a physical therapist to create a personalized program of strengthening, stretching, activity/ movement/  postural modification will help you reach your goals, no matter if it is being able to use stairs without ankle and foot pain or returning to running a marathon after an inability to run without ankle and/or not pain.
  • A PT will help reassure you to know that you can get back to your workouts and running activities in a safe and confident manner without worry of re-injury or setbacks
  • As a general rule, if you’ve been sidelined for more than 2 weeks, it’s best to seek professional help to minimize your downtime away from the activities you enjoy or derailing your training for your race or sport event,  and for learning to move without  compensations that lead to other problems down the road.
  • Like when you go see a dentist twice a year for a check up or take your car in for maintenance and oil change, the same approach should be taken with your body. There is no better person to see than a PT for  movement screening and address musculoskeletal injuries.


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4 thoughts on “12 Steps For Healthier Feet”

  1. You made a good point when you shared that the foot and ankle are susceptible to develop injuries if you try to strengthen the muscles in the areas. My friend just mentioned the other day that her son is often complaining about having pain around the foot area and it got her worried if the problem will get worse. I will suggest to her taking him to a reliable place so he can get the right treatment to cure the issue.

  2. I love how you suggest seeing a physical therapist to help figure out what is causing the foot issue. I think it would also be very beneficial to find a reputable foot clinic with reliable specialists that can help your foot heal quickly from its issue. Thank you for all of your tips on how to keep feet and ankles healthy.

  3. I liked that you stressed the importance of strengthening your calves. My mother was a teacher and she has bad feet from standing so much. She needs foot care and I want to find her a doctor.

  4. My son plays lacrosse and he hurt his ankle yesterday in a match. I’m worried that it might be sprained or broken so I want to take him to the doctor to see what’s wrong. It’s good to know that you can use a lacrosse ball to roll out tender spots, we’ll make sure to try it out.

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