The foot is made up of 26 bones, 30 joints, and 100 muscles. The foot area on the human sensory homunculus takes up as much priority as your genitals. That is how high your body prioritizes sensory information from the feet. The feet are designed to feel our environment and relay information back to the brain.
The problem is we neglect the health of our feet. Not only are humans not moving, but when they do move, it is foot foam sensory deprivation devices that ignore the biomechanical design of the feet entirely. The dense foam is comfortable but decreases sensory information arriving at the brain from the feet. The narrow toe box squeezes the metatarsals together, so they cannot distribute weight and naturally absorb shock.
The thicker allotment of foam in the heel is the top culprit in creating an unnatural gait. A large amount of foam in the heel makes it so that the heel is the first to strike the ground. When the heel strikes, the hips, and center of gravity are located behind the heel. This causes shock absorption to be centralized in the heel and distributed to the knee and hip. The more natural approach to walking utilizes a minimalist shoe with a wide toe box. This style of shoes mimics natural barefoot biomechanics. The forefoot is the first to strike the ground; the metatarsals can splay outwards, and an inward rolling motion is initiated as the midfoot begins to push down. The heels are the last to meet the ground as the arch flattens to help absorb the impact, and the foot recoils up again due to increased sensitivity.
This creates a more natural form of movement where the body maintains a center of gravity and all joints and muscles work synergistically. This style will help to decrease and heal from chronic pain. The brain is also receiving adequate sensory information, which is needed for optimized nervous system health.
Dr. Andrew’s Shoe Brand Recommendation
Exercises for Foot Health
- Toe Spacers
- After spending years in unnatural narrow box shoes, you can help influence natural foot alignment by wearing these silicone toe spacers. I recommend wearing them at night before bed, and you can wear them while performing all the exercises below.
- Foot Self Massage
- Either by using a golf ball or the Gaiam restore ball, roll out the bottom of your feet in all directions. When you find a sore spot, spend extra time to release the specific location.
- Resistance Band Big Toe Stretcher
- Earth Runner’s come with a big toe resistance band. I have been using this every night to rejuvenate my feet. You can purchase the band and learn to use it on the earth runners website.
- Single-Leg Wobble Cushion Stance
- All movement in the body is initiated in the spine. So to increase foot health, you must also prioritize spinal health through adjustments and homecare. After performing your prescribed wobble cushion exercises, flip the spiky side up and stand on it for one minute on each leg. This will help to send sensory information and work the muscles that help to stabilize the foot.
- Towel Curls
- While seated, place a towel on the ground. Starting with your foot flat on the towel, curl your toes, making the towel scrunch together. Flatten your toes and repeat 10-50 times per foot. This will help to strengthen the arch allowing for more cushion when transitioning to a natural barefoot walking form.