When I started working for Jean Couch at the Balance Center, she said I had some of the flattest feet she’d ever seen. I was surprised, because I thought my feet were kind of normal. However, I did have knee pain, which is often related to problems with foot alignment.
I had a dance injury that caused me so much pain when hiking that sometimes I thought I was going to have to call the park ranger to carry me out on a stretcher! Every step I took was so painful that I couldn’t even carry on a conversation with my friends.
I was worried that this problem would only get worse and that I might have to have surgery eventually. In fact, another student with foot problems did finally have to have knee surgery, despite wearing orthotics for many years. She’s not alone. More and more people these days are having surgery for their feet, knees and hips.
In fact, three out of four Americans will experience some form of foot problem in their lives, according to a report from Harvard Health Publications. There are 400,000 knee surgeries per year, and the numbers are increasing, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
This is a huge problem. You might ignore your feet, assuming that they will just keep on working for you. You might ignore fallen arches and bunions (which I see in many of my students), or think that if they get really bad, you can just have surgery. Unfortunately, having surgery without solving the initial problem may lead to the problem reoccurring.
Your feet have 26 bones, and those bones are meant to connect with each other in very specific ways. When you stand “out of Balance”, the weight on your feet goes too far forward. This changes the relationship of these bones with each other, flattening your arches. The misalignment then tends to travel upwards and stress the knees and hips as well.
This is important because, as you get older, if your feet don’t stay healthy, you may lose your ability to move around. When you restrict your movement, other problems may set in (weight gain, depression, frustration). I know that I hope to stay active and moving as long as possible!
Modern shoes can make the problem worse. Women’s shoes in particular often force the foot into an unnatural shape, especially high-heeled, pointy-toed shoes. You may think that Chinese foot-binding was extreme, but these fashionable shoes can misalign and cripple your feet too.
3 Things You Can Do
1) To improve the health of your feet, standing in Balance is the most important thing to start with. Make sure you’re not standing with the weight in the front of your feet – feet weren’t designed to bear so much weight on those tiny bones. Instead, stand with 90% of your weight in your heels.
2) Secondly, make sure that your ankles are not pronating (dropping in towards the center of your body, or midline). I teach an exercise in my “Reshape Your Feet” workshops called the “foot scoop” that can help you reshape your feet more like those of Balanced people. These people often walk barefoot or in flip-flops carrying heavy loads, and their feet look amazingly healthy and youthful even in old age, and they are functional.
3) Finally, buy some comfortable shoes, preferably with a low heel and plenty of room in the toe box. The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons claim that wearing shoes that crowd your toes can worsen bunions. This is important because they also claim that bunions worsen over time, and don’t go away. Is this true? You’d be surprised how much you can change your feet by improving your alignment.
These days, my knees are doing much better. I still enjoy hiking, and I haven’t needed any surgeries. I attribute this to practicing Balanced standing, the “foot scoops”, and wearing healthy shoes.
You can learn Balanced standing in the “Balance Your Body Program”, which I offer in Petaluma. I’m also offering a “Reshape Your Feet” workshop in Petaluma on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. For more information, visit the “Classes/Special Workshops” page on my website.
Pay some attention to your feet, get some comfortable shoes, and get your body more in Balance. These things will help you to keep active, healthy and moving throughout your life.
© Dana K. Davis, 2016