Foot Fitness

Foot Fitness on the Beachside Blog

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How are you doing on your New Year's resolutions? If one of them was to increase your fitness levels, don't forget one small but mighty body structure almost always gets left out! The foot's anatomy consists of 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments, all of which are under a person's full weight. As the point of contact with the ground, the feet are responsible for maintaining alignment throughout the entire body, meaning any little imbalance in them can produce effects in other areas. Read on for ways to keep your feet at their peak...

Foot Exercises and Stretches

The anatomy of the foot is very similar to that of the hand, and while they don't have opposable thumbs, the feet can do a lot when they are properly maintained. You can find a myriad of foot workout routines online - The Foot Collective has a ton of helpful videos - and they'll usually include these basic components.

  • Grabbing: Try picking up small objects with just your toes, or drop a hand towel on the floor to pick up and scrunch up.
  • Balancing: Practice balance to improve overall fitness but also to improve grip strength in the lower extremity. Make sure have a wall or other sturdy support if you've never done balance exercises before, and increase the challenge for your lower body by moving from a flat surface like the floor to an uneven one like a rolled-up towel when you're ready.
  • Stretching: Think of all the movements that you can do with your hands and fingers...and replicate them with your feet. Spread your toes as far apart as they can go, lift your heel and move your ankle forward to feel a pull through the toes, etc.
  • Rolling: Rolling the plantar fascia and other parts of the feet with a lacrosse ball or actual roller can also release areas that may be harder to stretch.
Work Out Your Feet on the Beachside Blog: Grab, Balance, Stretch, and Roll

Shoes for Foot Fitness

If you wanted to build a tall, sturdy tower out of Legos, would you snap them on top of each other in one single row, or would you first create a wider foundation for stability? Our feet are the sole point of contact with the ground when we stand and walk, and ideally they would provide a stable foundation for the rest of the body. However, feet will conform to their environment - think of the old Chinese practice of foot binding - and what you put on your feet has a huge impact on their shape and overall health.

No Shoes

In natural health, we always look to what our ancestors did and how the body was originally designed to function before modern culture started throwing it out of balance. Following this line of thinking, the healthiest shoe for our feet would be no shoe at all. When we walk barefoot, our feet fully articulate with the ground and feel all of its uneven textures, unintentionally providing us with a reflexology treatment every time we move. 

Barefoot Shoes

Of course there are times when walking in bare feet wouldn't be safe or appropriate. Barefoot shoes are designed to cover our feet while still allowing them to be as close to a "no shoe" feel as possible. They come in all shapes and sizes - sneakers, sandals, boots, you name it! - but all will have key features in common. 

  • Wide toe box: Toes can comfortably splay out without feeling restricted.
  • Thin, flexible sole: Feet can move through their full range of motion and be stimulated by uneven surfaces.
  • Zero drop: Heels and toes are on the same level, which also allows feet to move without inhibition. 
  • Backing: Shoes are enclosed or have a strap around the back of the foot so that toes do not have to grip to carry the shoe forward.

If you decide to travel the barefoot shoe route, some of our favorite brands are Xero, Earth Runners, and Be Lenka. If you're a shoe aficionado, the website Anya's Reviews is completely dedicated to them, discussing healthy options for every season and occasion.

Minimalist Shoes

On the shoe spectrum, minimalist shoes fall between barefoot shoes and modern shoes as we know them today. They'll usually cover many of the aspects of barefoot shoes, but may contain more cushion or other modifications. You can also find shoes that may not be classified in a specific category but still have a wide toe box or other feature.

Comfortable Shoes

No matter what type of shoes you wear, at the very least, choose ones that keep your feet happy. If you know one pair of shoes is too tight or gives you pain, switch to another pair instead. It's one thing to wear high heels or rigid dress shoes for an event - foot shape changes with prolonged confinement, not a few hours of discomfort - but opt for better fitting shoes day-to-day whenever possible.

Shoes Options for Healthy Feet on the Beachside Blog: No shoes, barefoot shoes, minimalist shoes, comfortable shoes

Foot Support

It makes sense to wear a sling for a few weeks after an arm injury, but would you continue to wear that sling for the rest of your life? In the same way, foot supports like orthotic inserts and ankle braces can be very helpful when feet are healing. Using them in the long-term, though, could weaken the feet and make them more prone to issues. Similarly, toe spacers and other gadgets designed to put feet back into proper alignment shouldn't be something that you need to rely on forever.

Get to Know Your Feet

As always, listen to your body and know your lifestyle! If you spend all of your time standing and walking on hard surfaces like pavement and concrete floors, you may need more cushion than a minimalist shoe. If you have numbness in your feet, you can probably benefit from exercises and stretches but should refrain from walking barefoot to avoid injury. This blog post is meant to open your mind to the often unacknowledged world of foot fitness, but at the end of the day, it's up to you to decide what is best for your situation.

Kathleen Ketola is a Licensed Acupuncturist and the owner of Beachside Community Acupuncture. She loves providing affordable acupuncture to the residents of Addison, Dallas, and Farmers Branch, Texas, and educating the general public on how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat everything from pain to infertility to stress and beyond. Click "Book Now" at the top of this page to book an appointment or feel free to contact her at (214) 417-2260.