If Leonardo da Vinci was right that the human foot is a masterpiece of engineering, why do foot problems effect millions of Americans each year?
75% of Americans will suffer foot problems during their lifetime and Americans visit podiatrists over 60 million times a year for foot ailments.
Common foot problems include: bunions, hammer toes, neuromas, tailor's bunions, crooked toes, ingrown toenails, corns, plantar fasciitis or fasciosis, achilles tendinitis, metatarsalgia, and arthritis.
Many of these problems are blamed on having flat feet or high arches which can then cause overpronation or underpronation (supination). What causes flat feet and pronation or high arches and underpronation/supination?
First let's figure out what your feet are doing right now...
- Take your shoes and socks off and stand up on a hard surface in a natural and relaxed position.
- Close your eyes and feel where the weight is distributed in your feet. Is there more weight in one foot than the other? Is your weight toward the inside or outside of your feet? Does your weight rest in your heels or towards the front of your feet? What is different left to right?
- Now open your eyes and look down at your feet. Are they straight or turned out? Is one foot more turned out than the other? Is one foot in front of the other? How far apart are your feet from each other?
- Lastly take a walk down and back in a hallway several times and try to get in touch with your foot strike. Don't change anything, but notice what part of your foot hits the ground first, where does the weight roll through, and where does the push-off come from? Notice what is different in your right foot than your left.
Now that you know what your feet are doing, let's see how they compare to what's anatomically and biomechanically normal. Your weight should be evenly balanced left to right 50-50, evenly balanced from inside to outside, and evenly balanced front to back with slightly more weight toward the balls of your feet. Your feet are designed to be parallel and pointed straight ahead and about 5 inches apart allowing them to sit directly under your hip joints. During walking gait, we are designed to land on the center back of the heel, roll straight through to the ball of your foot and push off all five toes.
If your weight wasn't perfectly balanced and your feet were not perfectly aligned, what is causing the imbalance? Most people assume it's a foot problem which causes people to start searching for a foot solution like different shoes, orthotics, and foot surgery. While shoes can have a big impact on foot shape and function and orthotics and surgery have their place, most people overlook the most basic and easy cause of foot problems and imbalances...postural alignment of the rest of the body.
We all know that the foot bone's connected to the ankle bone and the ankle bone is connected to the shin bone but when faced with a foot problem we usually don't look higher than the ankle. What if your shoulder position was effecting your feet and causing your foot pain? It's possible, lets test it out.
Self Test #2:
- Stand up on the same hard surface as a minute ago with bare feet. Interlace your fingers together and put them behind your head with your elbows out to the sides. Pull your elbows back and hold this position.
- Close your eyes and feel where your weight is in your feet again. Front to back? Left to right? Inside to outside? Now compare the weight distribution you feel now with your hands behind your head to the weight distribution you felt with your arms relaxed at your sides. What's different? What has changed?
- Keeping your hands behind your head and elbows pulled back, take a walk down and back in your hallway again several times and sense your foot strike. How does your foot strike compare with your hands behind your head to when your arms were relaxed?
- How is your pain? If your feet hurt standing or walking earlier, what has changed with your hands behind your head in this second test? What is different?
Most people will feel that their weight is more evenly distributed when standing with their hands behind their head and elbows pulled back than when their arms were relaxed. And while walking those same people will often be able to feel that they roll straight through their foot and push off all five toes more equally in the second test. Many people will also notice that their feet hurt less in the second test and are amazed that putting their hands behind their head could decrease their pain.
What does this tell us? First, your feet and what they do are very related to your shoulders and the position they are in. By putting your hands behind your head and pulling your elbows back you were able to create a more symmetrical upper body posture and improve your vertical loading (head sitting directly on top of your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles from the side) which changes how your feet interact with the floor. Second, trying to correct "foot problems" by only looking at your feet (or shoes) and not your entire body will not be successful longterm. You must treat the body as a unit and correct postural and movement imbalances up and down your whole body if you want to take stress off your feet and allow them to function the way they are designed. Third, if your pain did decrease with the second test, this shows you that your pain is not because of something "wrong with" or "broken" in your feet but rather because of bad posture (especially upper body posture).
Your feet being a "masterpiece of engineering" as Leonardo da Vinci says, are only a masterpiece when your entire body is posturally aligned as it is designed. Postural imbalances do to the "masterpiece" of your feet what throwing a bucket of paint on the Mona Lisa does to one of Leonardo da Vinci's greatest masterpieces. Luckily for you, correcting postural imbalances is a lot easier than removing the splattered paint from the Mona Lisa!
When you can correct your posture and return your shoulders and upper back into their functional position, you are giving your feet a chance to function they way they are designed to. This can eliminate pain, speed healing of injuries, decrease your chance of future injury or pain, and help improve performance. When you correct your posture, your feet - those masterpieces of engineering - can work as they were designed.
Note: Walking with your hands behind your head is only a test to let you feel and experience how upper body posture is related to foot function. For a longterm cure to upper body posture issues and foot pain and foot dysfunction contact us today for a free consultation where we can determine the right postural alignment therapy option for you and set you up with a personalized program.