The human foot is a complex and dynamic structure and the proper function of the foot is crucial for optimal health of the entire body. The foot has 26 bones and 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. To say that there is a lot going on down there is an understatement. Additionally we rely on the foot to be a shock absorber, and also our platform of stability for the other joints in the body above. So why do many of us ignore the strength and health of our feet when we need them so much?
Many injuries that I encounter, athletic or otherwise are caused or affected by improper foot function. Two common examples are improper mobility in joints of the mid foot or great toe, and weakness in the muscles and plantar tissues (the arch).
When the joints of the mid foot or the first toe are restricted, it causes either excessive supination or pronation (rolling inward or outward of the foot) and this leads to many other injuries as well as aches and pains. Injuries like bunions, shin splints, Achilles tendinitis, Illiotibial band syndrome, patellar tendinitis, hip and low back pain can all begin with improper foot and ankle function.
Having weak feet is something that many of us should be concerned with. Especially this time of year as the weather cools and we spend less time in sandals, barefoot, and light shoes the feet become less active. When the muscles in the feet are dysfunctional or weak the spring-like effect of the plantar fascia is lost. It is also harder to “work through” the foot, rolling from heel to toe and springing off. This reduction in roll through can also impact how the glute and posterior chain function, and our stride becomes less efficient.
Foot strength and mobility can be easily developed through specific soft tissue treatment protocols and chiropractic adjustments of the joints. The other components are numerous rehabilitation exercises. For example, towel curls, balance and proprioceptive drills, stretches and simply spending time walking barefoot, especially in grass and sand are a few of the effective techniques that we use.