Keeping your feet and ankles strong to support your body is essential for a healthy lifestyle. It’s challenging enough to be active without foot or ankle pain getting in the way. To understand how the foot supports and propels us, let’s take a basic look at it’s structure. The 26 bones of the foot along with the muscles, tendons and ligaments, give the foot it’s form and determine it’s function. This complex foundation of the body allows for flexible movement as well as rigid support depending on the foot’s position. While walking, the foot transitions from being in a very flexible position when it first contacts the ground, to being in a rigid, supportive position as it prepares to leave the ground. When there is a disruption in the biomechanics of foot and ankle movement, trouble starts. So, the question is: Given that the foot is designed for mobility and support, why do so many people who have not sustained any type of injury, seem to be plagued with weak and painful feet? My theory relates to the saying, “Use it or lose it”.
Shoe companies have almost done too good a job at making our feet comfortable and supported. Now, I’m not advocating that we all start going barefoot or even wearing minimal shoes (this may be great for some people, but not practical for most). What I am saying is, it is important to understand the potential cause of pain before trying to correct it. Painful feet need relief to prevent other aches and pains from cropping up elsewhere in the body. Often times, more supportive shoes, orthotics or inserts can provide that relief. Some may need these as a permanent solution depending upon their condition. However, many may only need these as a temporary solution or not at all – the wrong shoes or orthotics may cause more pain and damage. In a healthy individual, the body adapts very well to the demands placed upon it. If the demands on the muscles and other structures of the foot are diminished by wearing soft, supportive shoes, those muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments all become weaker and more prone to injury. After enough time and adaptation, you may only be able to wear certain types of shoes, it may be painful to go barefoot even around the house and you may notice changes in your balance as well. Just like other areas of the body, we must take the time to keep the feet strong, especially as we get older.
In this video, I demonstrate a basic strength routine to keep your feet and ankles healthy. Spend just a few minutes a day performing these moves – maybe during a midday break, right before bed or spread them out throughout the day if that makes it easier to fit them in your schedule. Soon you will notice improved mobility and strength and your feet will thank you! (If you currently have a foot injury or ongoing pain, seek the advice of a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis before performing these exercises.)