I often get asked “What is the one thing that you wish people knew about their bodies that most people just don’t know?”
I’ve been pondering that question recently and I have come to an answer. It’s a toss up between feet and breath. I could talk about how cool the feet are all day. Then I could switch gears and talk about breath all night. Then I could talk about how the two are intricately linked through the pelvic floor muscles… (by then I’m pretty sure you would all be sleeping but it’s what I could geek out about for a while)
So, stay with me and I won’t geek out for long.
What small things that could help people be a little more aware about their feet?
Let’s start with this – did you know the feet have 26 different bones, 109 different ligaments* and 33 different muscles that cross over and attach to those bones. 11 of those 33 muscles are intrinsic muscles, meaning they are contained within the area that they act upon; between the ankle and the toes! The intrinsic foot muscles exist in four different layers of muscles that work to tell you where your body is in space. They detect surface changes and provide small corrections to allow you to keep your balance. SO neat! Given how intricate they are, we spend more of our time blissfully unaware that a variety of things have to happen to support your weight and helping you walk around.
Why do I care about these and why should you?
Because if you are in highly supportive or motion controlled shoes and spending time on hard or concrete surfaces (rigid orthotics count in this category) all day, chances are a few things have happened to your beautiful little layers of intrinsic foot muscles. They have most likely become one or a combination of three things:
1. Dormant and weak – you’re not asking them to work so they don’t bother (it’s a natural human characteristic, don’t act like it’s something you haven’t experienced!)
2. Inhibited by the larger muscles that cross over the ankle (something has to do the work to move you around, if the little one’s aren’t cutting it, the big guns take over) resulting in weakness
3. Clumped, knotted and bound down together (forgive the lack of physiological terminology here, that’s really what happens)
In any of those cases, they can stop working independently of each other and leave you predisposed to foot and ankle injuries and dysfunctions.
What can you do about it? There’s a few things. Start by spending a little time getting curious about your feet. Can you splay and squeeze your toes? Can you lift your big toe without lifting any of the other toes? Can you pick up a marble? Can you balance on each foot? How does it feel to roll a golf or lacrosse ball around on the bottom of them? What tension do you notice?
Then, take a little action on loving your feet. Maybe get your fingers in the toes and stretch them out. Just like with anything, a little love can go a long away.
There’s loads more information out there if you want to get curious about it. I’ll leave you with a great Globe and Mail article that helped to bring the importance of your foot muscles to mainstream media.
In the days to come… why should you care about ankle sprains.
** The exact number of ligaments in the foot is relatively inconclusive, that was the number that I got during some of my training so I go with it.