For most of us, our feet live a lonely existence far away from our center of attention. We pay attention to what we eat, how much we exercise, our sleep habits, and so on.
But, says Dr. Emily Splichal in this free download, when it comes to our feet, we rarely pay attention, just expecting them to do their job of carrying us around wherever we go.
And that all works very well until one fine day, it doesn’t.
For many of us, we only discover too late just how important the feet are to our ability to do what we take for granted most of our lives, says Dr. Splichal. And she should know. A podiatrist by training, she is a leading expert in how to keep the feet healthy and prevent or heal common problems that arise over time.
Everything from balance, stability, movement, and musculoskeletal alignment begins with the feet. And if the muscles and fascia of the feet begin to atrophy, a host of problems can arise- ranging from flat feet, overpronation, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, shin splints, bunions, and heel spurs.
And just as bad, what happens in the feet doesn’t stay in the feet – foot imbalances will eventually affect other parts of our body as well, including our ankles, knee, hip, lower and upper back, shoulder pain, and arthritis.
We all know that to strengthen our bodies – we have to train. As with any muscle, the more it is trained, the more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes. But when it comes to the feet, few of us know how to keep them strong and healthy.
And that is just too bad, because the feet – and particularly the fascial planes of the feet, hold the key to understanding how to maximize the effectiveness of your movements, and hence creating greater movement longevity.
“When I teach about the feet, again, whether it’s a patient or a professional, I really like to build an appreciation for the complex integrated function of the human foot. And this is done biomechanically, fascially, and sensorily, Dr. Emily states.
Biomechanically, a weakness or dysfunctional foot pattern–fallen arches, pronation, flat feet, etc.–will translate up the chain much like a shaky foundation of a building, impacting our whole postural foundation.
“Just a subtle unlock of the foot can unlock the entire lower extremity into the pelvis, which then makes it difficult to engage the glutes, the deep core, the rest of our stabilizers,” Dr. Emily explains. “And then, of course, that can translate all the way up into the neck and into the hands.”
From a fascial perspective, we can trace the integration of many powerful fascial lines from the feet based on the Anatomy Trains model of Tom Myers. These lines play a key role in how we stabilize our feet and our core, and they run from the bottom of the foot upwards.
Stabilizing the body from a fascial perspective creates stability at a much greater speed, Dr. Emily explains. Optimal movement patterns are based on these fascial connections, and many of those lines cross the bottom of the foot.
“Sensorily, with thousands of nerves terminating on the bottom of the foot, our nerves are designed to read and react to every contact between our feet and the ground,” says Dr. Emily. A dynamic engagement with every step allows the body to interpret our movement and adjust to optimize foot core stabilization.
“We have to understand how to stabilize and how to transfer energy, and that is deeply integrated in the foot and where your center of gravity sits, which is your pelvis. These are really powerful connections,” says Dr. Emily.
Our awareness of and connection to gravity help to optimize movement via the way our foot relates to gravity. With every foot contact, you experience ground reaction forces, which are essentially gravity translating into our body’s energy.
“I love to look at movement and bipedalism as we go from newborn to the decline at the end. The decline of bipedalism has compounding effects on health, quality of life, and cognition. Conversely, when a child learns to walk, it is the movement of that child that unlocks language, learning, independence, and emotion.
It all starts and ends with how effectively you can use your feet. So honestly, my secret to longevity is to just keep moving, says Dr. Emily.
You might also be interested in Dr. Emily’s course Yoga, Fascia, and Functional Movement – Exploring the Fascial Lines of the Feet.