Why and How to Love your Feet

Most mammals walk on their ‘tippy-toes’ but as bipeds humans feet adapted for balancing the body upright. To do this, the feet must be evenly spread out with all the foot bones equally weighted on the ground. Humans are uniquely designed to use their feet in standing and walking. 

Movements of the Foot

Basic foot movements are separated into sections of the foot (see image). 


When walking the muscles of the feet work to roll the dorsiflexed heel touches the ground, slight inversion occurs as the weight rolls along the lateral side to the ball of lateral foot, then across the transverse arch to the big toe, where the longitudinal arch helps create the propulsion with the plantar fascia into plantarflexion and the body is propelled forward in space. This ‘figure 8’ pattern of the feet occurs naturally in walking barefoot. This pattern is a great essential to learn for all healthy movement function that originates with the feet as the base of support.  


[video]


The muscles of the feet work most when the body is:

  • Stabilising to balance on one foot

  • Rock climbing

  • Walking on ice

  • Picking a pencil off the floor with the toes


Injuries most common for the feet are:

  • Plantar fasciitis - Inflammation of the fascia on the sole of the foot. Often due to very tight fascia in the back of the body. 

  • Stress fracture - Hard landings or onto very hard surfaces e.g. concrete during high impact activities. Mostly heal on their own. 

  • Bunions - Often due to shoes that are too tight and cause swelling in the base of the big toe joint. 

  • Heel spurs - Repetition injury from overuse of the heel in movement and standing leads to the ligament growing as part of the heel. 



Anatomy of the Feet

The Bones

There are 26 bones in the foot. The rear of the foot is the calcaneus and talus, the latter of which forms part of the ankle joint with the tibia and fibula of the lower leg. The midfoot has five tarsals that are each uniquely shaped and have less range of motion. The metatarsals form phalanges with the big toe using two phalanges, and these are accessible from all sides. The big toe is often aggravated by tight shoes at its medial cuneiform that may tighten the plantar-fascia surface of the foot sole. 


The arch of the foot is formed of the five tarsals of the foot. There are three arches in the foot that connect the two heads of the first and fifth metatarsals, and calcaneus: {IMAGE]

  1. Medial longitudinal (inside)

  2. Lateral longitudinal (outside)

  3. Transverse (ball)

These three arches are what raise the centre of the foot that creates stability over uneven terrain, distributes and absorbs the weight of the body in movement. 

Muscles of the Feet

The sole of the foot has many layers of muscle the deepest of which is the plantar aponeurosis, formed by three muscles that lie side by side. It extends down to the toes on the centre and has three larger muscles above it. These support flexing all five toes and abduct the fifth toe. 


Understanding the different muscles that activate the toes can help strengthen and balance the feet from everyday shoe wearing.

  1. Big Toe - The extensor hallucis longus creates extension of the big toe whilst the flexor hallucis longus flexes the big toe.

  2. The second to fifth toes - Extended principally by the flexor digitorum longus and flexor digitorum brevis that runs into the medial aspect of the calf. The extension of these four toes is through the extensor digitorum longus and extensor digitorum brevis that runs the lateral aspect of the shin. 

Fascial Connections

As with the ankle, the fascia lines are shared. See more [here link]. 

[images of fascial lines]

Superficial Back Line 

Visualise a large backbend such as upward wheel pose in yoga with the weight on the balls of the feet, and the SBL is fully active. 


The SBL begins down past the Achilles tendon into the plantar fascia and short toe flexors on the under surface of the foot, then over the front of the calcaneus and the 5th metatarsal base that blends into the SBL on the lateral heel. The SBL relationship between first and fifth metatarsal heads is key for creating ‘bowstring’ in stronger spinal extension positions. Where plantar fascia issues occur it can translate up the back body depending on which aspect of the fascia is short. Always benefit the feet with waking the plantar fascia like ball rolling the sole of the foot. 


TEST FOR TIGHT PLANTAR FASCIA:

  1. Take a standing forward bend and see how far the hands reach to the floor. 

  2. Then roll a ball under one foot only for a couple of minutes. 

  3. Cover the three arches of the foot with vigorous rolling. Then take the forward bend again. 

  4. Is there a difference between the rolled and unrolled sides? 


Heel spurs develop if run on balls of feet and do not roll through entire foot, this repetition on the foot pulls on the plantar surface and results in tears and inflammation. The calcaneal attachment can give way and creates a bone spur, that in itself is not painful but can interfere with the nerves and cause pain. 


This is why in Pilates postural analysis, we are trained to begin at the feet, considering alignment of the lateral aspect of the malleolus for the angle of the ankle and trace any imbalances up the body. Trained teachers of movement should always address the ‘base of support’ first before working upwards. In standing poses the first correction should always be the feet upwards to the pelvis. 

Superficial Front Line 

The SFL connects into the short and long toe extensors of tibialis anterior and anterior midfoot from the shin beneath the knee. This is relevant for stability and balance in forward bending movements. 

Lower Deep Front Line 

Deep midfoot origin connecting tibialis posterior and long toe flexors. Passing through the ankle the tendon complex provides additional recoil in the push off phase of walking. As it connects into the lower leg it overlaps with the SFL and LL. 

Lateral Line 

Lateral band of the plantar fascia that forms part of the SBL is not part of the LL but does connect into the balance of the LL because it can cause the foot to evert. The origin of the LL is the fibularis longus tendon in the underside of the foot below the mid-arch of the foot at the crural compartment and then goes up the front of the Achilles tendon. 

Spiral Line 

The SPL ‘stirrup’ via the first metatarsal base and back up the tibialis anterior is where the foot arches impact the tilt of the pelvis. How the stirrup of the foot is lifted impacts the weight shift from the feet tracking up the leg into the pelvis. It may fall behind if not moved forwards, leading to an anterior tilt. 

Energetics of the Feet 

If reflexology wasn’t so effective you might not think that the feet had so much important energetically contained within them. A simple summary of the energetic and emotional signs of imbalanced feet are:

  • Tired and exhausted

  • Restlessness

  • Unstable emotions

  • Disoriented or disconnected (‘spacey’)

  • Creative blocks

  • Nightmares 

  • Difficulty walking or balancing

  • Trouble listening, learning or focusing

Energy Medicine

From Chinese Medicine there are the meridians and acupressure points that begin and end in the feet tracing throughout the entire body. The foot maps the entire body and its organs, so where there is tension in the foot reflects where there may be a further block in the body elsewhere. There are many variations of reflexology maps that can be used for training. See a trained reflexologist for an opinion on how the feet can improve a sense of overall wellbeing.  


[image]

Chakras

In Shamanism, yoga and Reiki there are the foot chakras. The chakra is split in half at the ball of each foot, which is why the yoga standing pose brings the balls of the feet together - to connect the foot chakra for grounding. 

  • This is where energy passes from the body and into the Earth, our communication with Earth and its energies. 

  • Balance and assimilate energies from Earth and its magnetic currents. Like the roots of a tree connecting into the soil. 

  • When blocked it causes energy to get stuck in other areas of the body and leak from those places. 

  • When in balance this chakra represents the harmonising of the spirit and physical body to enjoy a purposeful life. 


Metaphysical expressions in the feet say a lot about how we choose to stand in the world. Known expressions such as “digging heels in” as the brakes for movement. When we trip over our toes it is not being mindful of where we attend in life and going too fast. 

Holistic Training of the Feet

The classic exercises for the feet are:

  • Roll a tennis or fascia ball under the sole of the foot, each arch and press into the points of each toe. 

  • Wear toe separators (e.g. pedicure) and walk around the house in them for 10 minutes. 

  • Place a finger between each toe and move the toes and foot in all directions. 

  • Balance board training, especially on one foot. 


Fascial Lines

  • Foot rocking & dynamic movements off the feet

  • Ankle raises and variations during balance

  • Pick up pencil with the feet


Energy training

  • Grounding meditations like our (Divine Tree link)

  • Kidney 1 point for vital energy [image]

  • Foot soak in salt water or hot foot soak in lavender oil

  • Stand on grass or sand barefoot for 10 minutes a day

  • Stainless steel spoon rolled over the souls of the feet

Check out our video for a full workout to train the fascial lines, muscles and energy pathways of the body. 

[VIDEO]


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Resources:

Anatomy Trains by Tom Myers

Fascia by Robert Schleip

Energy Medicine by Donna Eden

Trail Guide to the Body by Andrew Beil

The Subtle Body Practice Manual by Cyndi Dale

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4994968/

http://www.wisdomsdoor.com/hb/hhb-13.php

https://reikirays.com/21123/importance-of-foot-chakra/


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