Our feet are miracles of creation. They allow us to walk, run, climb stairs, hike, skip, hop, and give us proper balance. Hopefully, we take care of them by choosing good shoes, exercising them, and using them wisely.
We think walking is something we do naturally, but we also learn by mimicking our parents or those around us—so if Dad walks like a duck, we also might. That externally rotated positioning stresses the natural position of the feet, legs, and pelvis, creating potentially big problems later. In this position, the foot strike is off to the outside and the function of the big toe is reduced. This can cause a build-up of calcification, leading to arthritic changes. This stiffness of the joint limits movement and over time can result in pain and dysfunction that can create further structural imbalances.
Rolfing® Your Way to Healthier Feet
In my work as a Rolfer, we look at the relationship of all the body parts and how they fit together. The body, as seen as an aggregate of blocks that are stacked and sometimes twisted and turned, is subject to gravity. Everything rests on what’s below it, so our feet are truly the foundation upon which we function.
I teach my Rolfing® clients how to walk and use their feet properly. I’d like to help you explore your feet and see how you can create more balance, movement, and freedom in those tootsies!
Happy, in-balance feet can go from sneakers to high heels and shouldn’t feel pain. Toes should be straight and flexible and arches should be slightly lifted to absorb the shock of the day-to-day pounding we subject them too.
Remember the Barbie doll? Her feet were permanently bent as if constantly wearing high heels. In this case, the fronts of the lower legs lengthen but the backs of the legs are shortened. It is very important to keep your calves, hamstrings, and back stretched to prevent hammer toes that bend the toe joints upward. This reflects tightness in the soft or connective tissue as it wraps underneath the foot to the backs of the toes.
Besides keeping a good, long back, try these simple foot exercises while at a desk or watching TV. Sit or stand with your bare foot slightly behind your knee. Keeping your body weight on the ball of your foot, lift your heel so your toes bend and spread out, making sure your big toe is bearing most of the weight. Try to stretch the front of your ankle so it’s in a straight line from your toe hinge to your knee, slowly working this stretch over time. If your foot goes over to the small toes and overstretches the outer ankle, concentrate on staying over the big toe.
Now stretch your foot behind you and lower the front of your ankle forward toward the ground. This stretches the front of the foot, ankle, and lower leg. Again keep the weight in your big toe and continue rocking from the small toes through to the big toe and back again. You will feel the stretch go up through your shin, down the front of your ankle to your toes.
This time, sit down and roll your foot on a golf ball (never do this while standing). Roll from front to back and side to side, pressing lightly to get your circulation going and help ease that soft tissue through the soles of your feet. Go slowly and do this set of two stretches, rolling three or four times each. Do it a few times a week – it will become easier.
Your feet will thank you, and over time, they’ll begin to feel more relaxed and fluid. We owe it to those lovely feet to keep them flexible and balanced so we can continue to run, jump, and play!
Sharon Sklar is in her 42nd year of private practice as a Certified Advanced Rolfer. State licensed and the only Rolfer in Central Connecticut, Sharon works with direct manipulation of the soft tissue of the body and movement re-education over a ten-session series to help her clients feel freer, get more balanced, and reduce chronic pain. Great for athletes, children, and adults recovering from injuries, stress, or traumas of life. Call 860.561.4337 for more info or to schedule a consultation. Inquiries are encouraged!