Why Taking Care of Your Feet Can Change Your Life - Auric Living

Yoga + Body

Yoga + Body

Why Taking Care of Your Feet Can Change Your Life

In 2013, I saw a foot specialist. After extensive examination, he told me, “We’re going to have to saw off your heel bone and screw it back on in the proper place.” He said it so matter-of-factly, I didn’t even think to question him. I was in shock.

There was a six-month waiting list for surgery, so in the meantime, he prescribed me a full foot brace. “Wear this brace at all times, and only take it off to shower and sleep,” he said.

Long story short: My foot was ruining my life. I was in my early 30s, and even though I had long retired from being a track athlete, I still loved playing sports and doing intense workouts like running and jumping.

The boot was so thick that I walked with a limp. I spent months in a deep depression as I waited for my operation, which didn’t exactly sound like it would lead to much. The doctor told me that, even post-surgery, there was no guarantee that I would ever be able to walk without a limp again. And I certainly wouldn’t be able to run or jump again.

Luckily, a conversation with my physiotherapist happened before the surgery did, and with a lot of hard work, rehab and exercise, we fixed my foot issue — no surgery required.

Wait, what happened in the first place?

My foot problems started as a child, when I was constantly trying to squeeze my feet into hand-me-down shoes. Then doctors would tell me that I had to correct my pigeon toes by walking with my feet turned out.

I was later prescribed orthotics in my teens, which are really just there to support your feet so you feel less pain temporarily. I didn’t realize then that I still had to do the work. The orthotics actually made my feet worse — I couldn’t wear sandals for long, because I needed the support of my orthotics. I was reliant on them and felt like I had to wear shoes constantly.

Eventually, the arch of my foot collapsed. More specifically, the muscles of my feet were not strong enough to hold my talus bone in place, so it started “falling” toward the inside of my ankle and cutting off my circulation, causing my foot and leg to go numb during activity.

So, how did you fix it?

By doing the work. My physiotherapist had me doing lots of small, tedious strength-training exercises for my ankles, calves, glutes and hips. We were able to strengthen the arches of my foot enough, so that I could finally stop wearing that damn foot brace.

What I learned through all of this? ​The feet are the foundation of our mobility, the roots of our tree.​ Imagine if you had a house with a crack in the foundation that ran up and showed up on your walls. You could plaster it and paint over it to hide the crack, but the crack would still be there. The problem needs to be fixed at its foundation.

There are approximately 7000 nerve endings in the feet. These nerve endings run through your entire body, and then end back in your feet. In Stretch Therapy and Thai Massage, the focus is on the muscles and joints of the feet. There are quite a few muscles that connect in your feet, but the main muscles are in our toes. The two muscles of our big toes have major influence over the many muscles in the human body.

Flexor hallucis longus (FHL)​ flexes your big toe, but it is also responsible for the plantar flexion of the ankle. This muscle works with your hamstrings, your gluteus maximus and the extensor muscles of your lumbar back. Essentially, when you’re having problems with these muscles, check to see how your big toe is flexing (curling down toward the bottom of your foot). In reverse, if there is pain in your big toe or plantar portion of your foot, it can translate to these muscles as well.

In the opposite direction, the ​Extensor Hallucis Longus (EHL) ​extends your toe up toward your shins. This acts to dorsiflex the ankle, and syncs with the tibialis anterior (shin muscles), quadriceps and hip flexors. So that hip pain you’re having … it could actually be your big toe!

I take that a step further when we go into reflexology, the focus shifts to the bones and reflexes of the body. Those reflexes stimulate those 7000 (approximately) nerve endings on your feet. Including all various body systems (lymphatic, digestive, reproductive etc.)

To keep this simple, we look at the Central Nervous System (CNS). The reflexes of the CNS on your feet are:

  • Spine
  • Brain
  • Neck
  • Sacrum and coccyx
  • Hip and pelvis
  • Shoulder, knee and elbow
  • Sciatic nerve

So, what does all this mean? In essence, touching a specific part of your foot can affect these parts of your body, too. And in reverse, if you feel pain and tension in a particular part of your foot, it can be signalling an issue elsewhere in your body.

Your feet can ruin your life—but they can also make it better

I resisted training barefoot for a very long time. I believed my doctors when they told me that not wearing my orthotics would make my feet even worse, and I became reliant on them. But as I jumped feet first into the world of manual therapy, I was introduced to more holistic practitioners who understood the body in a different way. And they all walked around barefoot.

Eventually, I tried it while on vacation in the Caribbean for a couple weeks. I started out slow. My arches didn’t have the strength to stand up on their own, and my feet would cramp quickly. It took over a year for me to get to the point where I could do a full workout while jumping barefoot. And much of the chronic pain I used to have in my hips and lower back have gone down considerably.

Once my feet got stronger, I gained better control of my foot position so I could run longer, squat deeper, lift heavier, and stand for longer periods of time. My balance has improved and my body awareness has increased.

When I went back to the foot doctor who prescribed my orthotics — not the one who tried to cut off my heel bone! — he was amazed when he compared my results from the previous year. He asked me what I was doing. When I told him that I had stopped using orthotics and started training barefoot, he was impressed.

He knew and understood that orthotics were supposed to be temporary, but he was also aware that most of us aren’t willing to do the work, so they keep giving us the bare minimum to try to reduce the pain.

The fear of surgery set me on a journey of health and wellness that led me to the point of learning more about my feet and body as a whole. And guess what? I can wear sandals all summer with no pain!

Here are my five tips for better feet

  1. Choose better shoes. If they give you blisters, don’t wear them. Heels change the whole structure of your feet and lead to many problems throughout your body.
  2. Apply lotion to your feet. Dry and cold feet don’t allow for proper circulation, and the feet being the furthest from the heart, need all the help to keep circulation going.
  3. Massage or rub your feet — or get them massaged — regularly..
  4. Watch how you walk. Are you a heel-toe person, or do you walk on the balls of your feet? You could get rid of pain, just by changing how you walk.
  5. Get your feet checked out. Thai Massage therapists and reflexologists are great for feet therapy.

 

BIO:

From patient to fitness trainer to therapist, Devon MD Jones has always been intrigued with how we can keep the body functioning at its most optimal level. She sees the body as a map! Our clients love her strong but gentle touch.

Devon works with The Stretch Therapist team as the Lead Therapist (in-person and virtual) and Master Performance Stretch System Trainer. Working with athletes, regular exercisers, and clients in injury prevention, recovery & rehabilitation, Devon is adept at using a meld of Fascial Stretch Therapy, Thai Yoga Massage, Neurokinetic Therapy and Reflexology to get to the root of the problem. And as a LifeStretch Certified instructor, she will assess and prescribe homework to help maintain the results her clients require.

 

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