So when did you last think about the health of your feet and the investments that you are making for their future? You might think such a question is more relevant to your bank balance than to the bottom of your legs but allow me to suggest otherwise. Your feet and toes, being the first contact with the ground, are what determine the entire posture of the rest of your body; toe to head, literally.
Think of how a small grain of sand quietly rubbing away in your shoe, soon becomes so large in its effect it can alter the entire way in which you move your body. So having stiff tight or weak toe foot or ankle joints and muscles, can have the same effect as the grain of sand in terms of how your body responds. However, it can be so insidious that it’s only when it reaches a point where your body can no longer accommodate this anomaly (triggered perhaps by a longer walk or run than usual, a simple sprain, a new pair of shoes or undertaking a different activity) you discover you are the not so proud owner of new ache or pain.
Most of us would rather not dwell too long looking down at the ten little wigglers but I would urge you to rethink this. Given the amount of time and energy we can set aside to moisturise, prep, stretch, strengthen and tone other regions of our bodies, if you gave even a smidge of that time to your feet, the potential dividends are immense. You may not notice the immediate sea change but be rest assured doing diddly squat to invest in your feet is one sure way to encourage the foot gremlins to come crawling to your door.
You don’t have to do a lot, you simply have to do a little (and weakly twiddling them up and down DOESN’T COUNT…)
As you can see below I have dared to not only look down at my ten little wigglers but to photograph them too. All for the greater good. Follow the images below to see how much movement you have in yours. If it’s only a little, think of the harsh impact this will have on your ankle knees and hips due to the reduced ability of your foot to mould to the ground. This can lead to ineffective absorption and distribution of the normal stresses and strains of walking which are then forced up to the rest of your body.
Many of you might try these exercises and think it is beyond hope, your feet just won’t follow the orders coming from your brain. That maybe the case in the first instance and stiff inflexible feet might make these actions very difficult to do. HOWEVER, (as you know there is ALWAYS an however) your feet were designed to move like this. Those people without hands can achieve mind boggling dexterity with their feet. SO my friends persistence and trust in what I say is the order of they day here.
Even if what you feel is simply the muscles in your feet engaging but no actual toe movement taking place, that is a mighty win! It might be as good as it gets if your feet have significantly changed shape and stiffened up over time. Nonetheless it’s still a win because if the muscles are engaging you are acquiring greater stability and strength in your feet. This will help to slow further deterioration, weakening and deformity which will inevitably happen if you do nothing.
For the rest of you where your toes have reasonable wriggle ability, march on with no excuses!!
Mexican wave your toes
Lift all toes keeping the ball and heel of your foot on the ground
Place toes down to floor one at a time starting with little toes
Reverse pattern, starting with big toes
Big toe lift
Keeping the ball and heel of your foot on the ground
Relaxing all other toes while lifting big toes upwards
Keeping the ball and heel of your foot on the ground
Spread all toes as far apart from each other as possible
Imagine you are wiping something sticky from the underside of your toes
Difficult to see here, but your toes remain straight as you lift your foot knuckles up.
NOT LIKE THIS WHERE ALL THE TOES ARE CURLED UP
To help with this exercise the movement for your foot looks like this with your hand:
Fingers remain straight while your knuckles bridge upwards
Try walking barefoot
Barefoot walking at home can offer lots of health benefits. It increases the awareness of your senses through the contact with the different surfaces and temperatures underfoot. This reconnection with the ground allows you to better understand how your foot is planted and how you transfer your weight from your heel to the front of your foot as you propel yourself forwards. It also provides an opportunity to see how your whole posture can be directly influenced by the placement of your feet. Obviously if you have severe deformity and other foot problems, to walk without shoes is not advisable here, however you can still do the exercises above.
Start with a few minutes initially with shorter softer landing steps which reduces the impact for your out of practiced foot muscles and joints. If you’re worried about the hygiene issues think about the bacteria harbouring in your warm moist socks and shoes and the perfume they love to share…
There is so much fun to be had. Waste not a moment longer; rip off those socks, liberate your feet and watch those wigglers lengthen and strengthen for the benefit of your whole body. So try them out and let me know how you get on!