Lets get to know our FEET!
This is a blog about YOU. I invite you to read this series of questions and check in with yourself to see where you stand (literally) :)
All you will need is a solid floor beneath your feet and ideally a full length mirror to observe yourself with. I will ask a series of questions and provide you with the ideal scenario that would be observed if all things were functioning as optimally as possible.
Please stand barefoot with a relaxed stance. Allow your feet to turn in / turn out, allow your toes to relax or to scrunch up as they would naturally do if you were paying them little to no attention. When you have arrived in that space, check in with your feet. What areas of your feet do you feel contact with the floor?
If you were to divide your feet into quadrants (front right and left, Back right and left), is the pressure evenly distributed amongst each quadrant?
Do you feel your 1st Metatarsal? Your 5th metatarsal? Your heel (calcaneus)?
In an ideal world, we would like to see a pretty neutral alignment of the feet, not too turned out and not too turned in. There would be pressure distributed evenly in each of the four quadrants mentioned above and we would have the ability to feel the 1st metatarsal, 5th metatarsal and calcaneus on both feet.
Why is this important?
As we walk, we should articulate and mobilise all of the 33 joints that we have in each foot. The resting posture of arch foot can be indicative of the movement potential of our feet. And since our feet connect us to the earth and have an amazing relationship with ground reaction forces and the rest of our body, it is something that we should ideally be able to become aware of and cultivate to our benefit.
A tripod formed by the 1st metatarsal, 5th metatarsal and calcaneus (heel bone) is an important functional piece in the arsenal of movement that the feet possess. This is because we need to spread our body weight efficiently throughout the 26 structures (bones) in each foot when we move. During the loading phase of gait, the human foot becomes a "mobile adaptor", with all 26 bones splaying within their respective planes of movement to absorb the forces from the ground. This phase occurs immediately after heel strike when the foot pronates, lengthens and spreads.
Optimal movement within this loading phase of gait will in turn set the scene for the supinatory response that happens directly afterwards, where the 26 bones of the foot return from a splayed position to lock together, forming the "rigid lever" that is designed so beautifully to allow us to propel forwards upon.
This is of critical importance during our movement as without the ability to access both of these phases of movement, we will limit the potential for optimal movement further up in the kinetic chain.
SO, BACK TO YOU!
Were you able to feel symmetry between both feet? Even pressure in each quadrant of the foot?
Did you have a tripod intact or did you have to "force the pressure" into each of these areas?
Perhaps you have never been aware of this area of your body?
If you were unable to feel ares of your feet as you stood there, what information can you take from this? Was it your 5th metatarsal that was not in contact with the floor? Your 1st metatarsal?
Was the pressure all towards the front or back of your foot?
What do you have to do to your body to experience equal pressure in each quadrant?
Imagine a scenario like this: You check in with yourself in this way for the first time and realise that your 1st metatarsal is not in contact with the floor on either foot as you are stood upright.
What does this mean? It is likely that your 2nd or third metatarsal are in contact instead. If this is the case, we can be sure that we have less than optimal foot function. The 1st metatarsal is the longest and thickest of the metatarsals and it is designed to be the primary load bearing bone. What happens if we don't load it well? The timings of our movements will have to change! And this affects the potential of our movement further up through the kinetic chain, usually causing areas to move too little (as they don't have the required time to experience their range of motion), or too much (as they attempt to make up the movement that is missed elsewhere).
Something that seems as trivial as a bone not resting on the floor during stance may now link directly to areas of your body that are not moving enough, or that are moving too much. Apply the soft tissues of the body over the skeletal map we are speaking about and we instantly see that we have tissue that loads too much and too often, and tissue that doesn't get the load it requires. Add the specificity and sensitivity of the nervous system and the information that the brain is receiving from all of these areas and suddenly we have a wonderful tapestry of function, potential and information to explore with someone who is in pain or is experiencing some symptoms.
I hope this offers you some food for thought as you ponder your own body, your own alignment and your own symptoms. Keep your eyes peeled for the next part to this exploratory series where we explore the pelvis, hips and spine :)
Get in touch to find out how I put this information together to help people like you move past their symptoms towards a pain free future :)