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Foot Alignment in Standing Walking and Running
Both the fitness- and shoe-industries try to convince us that our feet need to be strapped in the latest, most expensive and most technologically advanced, "supporting" shoes. But do we really need them, or could they weaken our feet? Find out how the foot's natural design is perfectly suited to support the body in standing and to protect it from landing shock in walking and running. With proper foot alignment, many knee and hip injuries can be avoided.
The Feet in Posture
Feet are the most important part of posture since they carry the rest of the body. Take your shoes off and stand on the floor with bare feet. Now try to spread your toes as far out as possible. Make them look like ducks' feet. Now look at the footprint to see how you use (or misuse) your feet.
Flat Feet or Pigeon Toed?
Stand with your feet parallel and look down at your feet. Which picture do they resemble?
I see joggers running their ankles into the ground because they don't realize that they have fallen arches (flat feet). Flat feet soon causes knee damage. Badly aligned knees may, later on in life, create the need for hip-replacement operations. That is why it is so important to start at the base.
To better understand why people suffer unnecessarily, let us take a look at the structure of the foot. Even if you have chosen picture 2 as resembling your foot print, practice the Toe Alignment exercise below for maintenance, and to prevent future problems.
The main body of your foot is, like your hands, made up of fan-shaped bones spreading out towards your toes. Your toes should be aligned as a continuation of these fan-shaped bones. Not many feet are shaped like this because we wear ill fitting, mass manufactured shoes. But that's another story, what to do with bunions, hammer toes, and other such self-inflicted horrors . (Find the link at the bottom).
The funny thing is that when people make an effort to spread their toes, they often open the palms and spread the fingers as well. This is because the brain is more familiar with sending "spread" message to the hands than to the feet. When the toes are asked to spread, they follow a movement pattern the brain already knows from when it sends messages to the hand. The fingers are trying to teach the toes how to do the job. The brain is such a clever organ (pardon the cliché) that it will use what ever information is already stored in its memory to resolve a new task. Say, for example, you decided that you wanted to learn to write all over again but this time with the left hand (that is, if you are right-handed). The task would be much easier to you, already an accomplished writer, than to a child who is learning to formulate the shapes of the letters from scratch.
To get back to spreading your toes, the benefits are manyfold. Not only are you beginning to improve your feet, your stance, balance and posture. By learning new moves for previously dormant parts of your body, you are now also developing new brain cells all at the same time! Is that enough incentive? Now let us re-align the big toe.
Re-aligning the Big Toe
Toe Alignment Exercise
1. Place the right foot on the ball of the foot so that it is 'turned in', with the big toe pointing inwards.
2. While keeping the big toe firmly in place (you might need to use your hands to keep him there), bring the heel inwards and down onto the floor until the foot is parallel as on the last picture. Now the foot is correctly aligned for most efficient weight bearing.
3. Keeping the toes spread and the heel on the floor, bend your knee slightly while aligning the knee-cap centrally above the third toe.
4. Now slowly straighten the knee. You should feel a lifting of the longitudinal arch (the inside of the sole) and a lot of strength coming into the outside of your ankle and shin.
5. Repeat from No.1 above two or three times with the same foot until you can feel it working. Aim to keep the toes fanned out.
6. Shake the foot loose as if throwing off a large boot.
7. Repeat with the left foot.
1. Hold onto something and stand on the ball of your feet, turned in, with your big toes close together.
2. Slowly bring the heels together and down onto the floor while keeping the tips of your big toes in place.
3. Now bend the knees while aligning them centrally over the feet.
4. Straighten the knees. You should feel a lifting of the arches and a lot of strength coming into the ankles and the sides of your shins.
5. Repeat from No.1 two or three times and shake loose.
Next, let us take a look at the bottom of your feet, the sole.
The Sole of the Foot
Just like a kitten's paw, the sole of your foot has pads for shock absorption. There is one large pad under the heel, two pads form the ball of the foot, and you have a pad under each toe. The areas that don't touch the ground form the feet's arches. How can you restore the arches?
Long Arch & Cross Arch
In all the previous exercises for foot and toes alignment we made sure that the knee-cap was centered above the middle toe when bending the leg in standing (for example when you go up and down the stairs). Now practice an Arch Lift to strengthen the arches. Try to pick things up with your feet to develop the right muscles for restoring and maintaining both the long arch and the cross arch.
How Often? Multitasking
There are numerous situations when you can fill time by training your body while doing something else or simply to fill up boring waiting time. Once you understand and have become familiar with the exercises above, rather than setting aside valuable time especially to "exercise", you can perform any of the above moves every time you take your shoes and socks off, or when you are waiting for the kettle to boil, or while you are brushing your teeth, or while waiting for something to download on your computer, or even in the shower. In this way, what you learn here can become automatically incorporated into your daily habits.
Consequences of Flat Feet When Running
Shoes or no shoes in the house?
Do you take your shoes off when you get home?
Be Well Grounded - Don't be a Push-Over
What we learned here is that correct foot and toes alignment and placement in standing, walking and running are crucial to good posture. As you continue doing the above exercises as part of your daily dressing, grooming and multitasking routines, you will soon discover that your feet will gain in mobility and strength. You will become more grounded, confident, and gain much improved posture, balance and strength.
What has confidence to do with your feet? Well, in body language, someone who is well grounded with a decent posture and feet they can walk on comfortably literally "stands his/her ground" and is not so easily pushed over. Confidence invites respect!
And lastly, here is the promised link to What Shoes Can Do To Your Feet
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