Our feet take us everywhere. Some of us stay on our feet all day, giving them the burden of our entire body against gravity. A lot of us love shoes, and often shove our feet into any pair that pulls at our fashion-heartstrings; But how much extra care do we take of our feet? I'm talking beyond the aesthetics of and the stress-relieving massage of a good pedicure.
Taking care of our feet can relate to taking care of the entire body. It comes down to the "use it or lose it" theory: Any muscle or combination of functions that aren't used after a period of time will degrade or atrophy. To make the body stronger, we have to use it; use our muscles, use our brain power, etc.
Think about how often you use your feet while they are bare, on a flat supportive ground, compared to when they are sheltered or braced by thick socks, cushioned running shoes, or constricting high-heeled shoes. How often do you get to feel your toes splayed out rather then squished together?
There are 19 different muscles in the human foot, and over 100 ligaments! And especially important ones seeing as how they support us while standing, propel us while walking, and catch us while running.
More of us could do with a little foot conditioning. Properly taking care of feet includes strengthening them, preventing the muscles from atrophying, and protecting other joints such as the knees, hips and all the muscles in-between that have to compensate when we have weak feet and ankles.
How can you better take care of your feet and lower body?
1) Spend more time barefoot.
Being barefoot connects you to the ground. You can do it within your home, but it's even more beneficial if done on the earth or grass. There are actually mental health benefits to walking barefoot through dewy grass! Grounding also helps bring you to the present. It literally connects you to the ground and can be a part of a mindfulness exercise.
Yoga is an incredible practice into strengthening your feet. Allow the toes to spread wide. Plant your feet and/or practice your balance postures. A yoga practice can be a fantastic way to strengthen your feet and whole body.
3) Other exercises and recovery.
For injuries such as plantar fasciitis, work to stretch and strengthen the feet by drawing out the letters of the alphabet with your feet/toes (one foot at a time), then roll a frozen water bottle or lacrosse ball under your foot between the heel and the balls of the feet. Drawing the alphabet requires you to use multiple muscles of the foot, while the ice or ball will help to loosen tissue stiffness, adhesions and will reduce inflammation (with ice).
4) Ditch the high heels
High heeled shoes are a menace for your feet, knees and hips. They can completely change the body's posture, and put more strain on the lower body. Additionally, most high-heels require the toes to be compressed together, completely eliminating their function in balancing the body, while significantly affecting blood flow to the feet and toes.
5) Foot massages and Epsom salt foot baths
For extra pampering, give yourself a quick foot treatment. Forget the nail polish and just give yourself (or get someone else to help you) a foot massage. Knead into your arches, and gently traction the toes. You can even precede this with a foot soak in Epsom salts to help relax the muscles of the foot (soak for a minimum 20 minutes).
Give your feet the attention and love they deserve. And even more, keep them strong so that they can prevent injuries in other parts of the body.