Mobility #1: Feet are the body’s foundation
Your feet are literally carrying you through life, and therefore we have to take care of them in the right way. If you don’t take care of your feet, there can be huge negative consequences on the rest of your body, because the body is so interconnected; just as if you improve the health of your feet it can have dramatic improvements on your posture, and aches and pains in your entire body. As humans, we have a tendency to overlook our feet until we have pain specifically there, but there are massive benefits to our overall health and wellbeing by being proactive.
Unfortunately, nowadays it is very uncommon to spend much time barefoot, and our feet are always squeezed into shoes and socks. High heels also squeeze your toes together and put your foot under stress which causes tension throughout the entire body. We have lost the basic natural movement when walking, of activating the toes by “grabbing into the ground” to be able to take pressure and stress off the rest of your joints. The shoes you buy on the market these days are more focused on giving you the feel that you walk on clouds, and are super soft, but this takes the activation in the feet away and makes you walk too relaxed, which has a big impact on your whole body, from head to toe.
What can you do to improve mobility in your feet?
- Rolling your feet: You have likely seen in recent years athletes “rolling” different body parts as part of their warm-up/cool down routines and I did exactly the same. The good thing is that mini foot roll, lacrosse balls or something similar are fairly inexpensive to purchase, for example the BlackRoll Mini >>. There is a lot of muscle and connective tissue in the feet which overtime becomes very stressed and even inflamed. Rolling your feet can release some of the tension and decrease pain in the feet and other areas of your body, for example in your back and neck because everything is interconnected through the body chain.
To effectively roll your feet, you should place your chosen roller tool under your foot, and then roll from the ball of the foot to the heel, across the foot arch and keep going back and forth, up and down the foot. There will be spots that are more sensitive to others, and these trigger/pressure points - listen to your body and focus on these areas as they are the most important areas to release tension in the rest of the body. At these trigger points, stay in the one position, and apply additional pressure for 10-15 seconds and then release, return to rolling the entire foot and come back multiple times to repeat. You can start in a seated position and if you can tolerate the discomfort (if any) and as more pressure is released over time, you can then advance to a standing position later and utilize your body weight to apply more pressure.
- Use toe spreaders daily: Toe spreaders played an important role in the later years of my career. Your toes can become very narrow and squished together, when in actual fact they should be free, individually moveable, and have space in between etc. The goal of toe spreaders is to return the toes to their pre-shoes (think about how toddlers’ feet look before years of wearing shoes). They can take lots of pressure off, however if your toes are in an extreme position, it can be initially very painful in the beginning, and toes can even turn blue. However, you can start with just 5 minutes and then build up your tolerance slowly and the more often you use them the quicker you feel and see a difference. And an added bonus: they are very cheap to buy :)
- Insoles (& Good Quality Shoes): First and foremost, where possible, it is best to spend as much time as possible barefoot, however this isn’t realistic to enforce in our daily lives (even though there are more barefoot shoe options, which imitate the barefoot on the market) so we need to make sure we are choosing good quality comfortable shoes for the health of our feet and/or putting insoles in our shoes.
A healthy, powerful body is based on healthy and strong feet. If this is not the case, muscular imbalances are an often a painful result. I have personally used MedReflexx insoles for over 5 years now and they help to work and activate the feet which in turn helps the health of the entire body, and also strengthens my toes, which makes me stronger and more explosive from the toes when I train.* MedReflexx’ soft and flexible sensorimotor insoles start where the body gets out of balance: The insoles’ individually filled therapy areas stimulate the foot and its muscles – correcting the musculoskeletal system and this way, alleviate or cure the pain. MedReflexx insoles are also very sustainable: During the course of therapy the insoles can be adjusted as often as required to a change in muscular tension.
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- Mobility Exercises: Alongside relieving stress and tension, there is also an importance in strengthening your feet and toes, so they are less susceptible to pain and provide a good base for the rest of the body. For example, if you don’t have enough strength in your feet, you have a tendency to drop the hips when walking, which becomes a bad habit and eventually leads to back and hip pain. Some exercises I like to do, include:
Exercise 1: Sit down on your bum, with your legs stretched out straight in front of you, and perform big and slow ankle circles, as far as you can go in each direction, which increases ankle mobility. Perform this clockwise and anti-clockwise 3 times, on each ankle; you may feel some cracks as tension releases:
Exercise 2: This exercise you can do in two different ways and is an easy one to do when watching the tv in the evening and it gives you an amazing stretch through your toes and ankle. Position 1 focuses on the toes; you kneel and curl under your toes beneath you and sit up straight. For position 2, you take the same position on your knees, but this time have your ankle straight down on the ground beneath you. You should hold each position for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3 times with a break in between. This can be painful in the beginning and some people may even cramp, but as you advance and get better you can hold for longer and lean back further to enhance the stretch (maybe you can even lie all the way down ;))
Exercise 3: Stretch the calf and increase range of mobility in the ankle. Stand on the stairs and drop the heel, this brings the ankle into a new degree, hold 20-30 seconds, and repeat 3 times each ankle, alternating between ankles as you go. This stretches the whole leg chain, all the way up to your hamstrings and glutes.
Exercise 4: Alongside increasing mobility we also want to strengthen aspects of the toes and feet. We can do this by placing a towel down on the floor in front of you (you can be seated our standing) and scrunch your toes together to grab the towel and bring it towards you. You should do it one foot at a time and repeat the movement 5-10 times on each foot, three times.
Your feet really are the foundation for your entire body, and hopefully these are some simple steps you can conveniently incorporate into your daily routine, do in front of your tv, or even whilst on your work conference Zoom calls. Making your feet stronger again and keeping them activated will have unmatched benefits for the entire body, so don’t wait for the pain to appear, start working on them today for 10 minutes a day and you won’t regret it.