Our feet ground us to the earth. They transport us to our destinations, near and far. They are the foundation of our runs, jumps, squats, walks through the city, and hikes through the canyon.
Unfortunately, every one of us can attest to the pain, blisters, backaches, and even twisted ankles that have resulted when our feet, the base of our standing posture, become hurt or unstable. Since we do demand constant work of this lowly (and often neglected) part of our body, let’s get acquainted with some particular and important aspects of our complex foot architecture.
It is quite amazing to consider that our feet contain more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. In fact, one quarter of the bones of the human body are in the feet. There are 33 points in the feet where those bones come together (joints)! Of course several groups of muscles and tendons reside at the bottom of the feet. They provide padding as well as flex and point the toes. Some of these muscles actually originate above the feet, at our shin bones.
The Foundation of the Foundation: Plantar Fascia
The shape of our foot contains three arches: the transverse at the forefoot, the outer or lateral arch, and the inner medial arch. A key support to the medial and lateral arches is called the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia consists of bands of connective tissue that originate at the heel bone and connect to the toes. The plantar fascia is subcutaneous, directly under the skin. Picture an internal band of very strong ribbon beneath the skin at the bottom of your feet, acting as a shock absorber for the impacts our feet endure.
When that ribbon of fascia becomes inflamed from repeated strain or impact, pain will occur, particularly immediately after waking up or long periods of inactivity. If we ignore the pain, it may worsen the condition as we adjust our gait, and our entire posture becomes effected. This irritation and inflammation of the plantar fascia is called plantar fasciitis. Sometimes, an inflammation of the plantar fascia attachment at the heel bone, (called the calcaneus) develops. This growth is called a heel spur. Spurs might help if you are riding a horse, but an internal spur is quite uncomfortable!
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis and sore feet
Poorly cushioned shoes can contribute to plantar fasciitis and other foot issues. The stress of repeated pressure on the foot while running, inappropriate footwear, or standing for long periods, also creates undue pressure on the plantar fascia. Even too much dancing can contribute to this condition. Additionally, obesity will stress the body’s foundation and contribute to inflammation causing plantar fasciitis.
Healing and Prevention
To relieve the pain of inflammation, ice and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be taken. Stay off of your feet as much as possible, and see your health care professional IF you are in acute stages of plantar fasciitis. Research shoe options, including negative heal shoes.
Prevention and Relief
For prevention and relief, stretching and strengthening the feet will go a long way in keeping the entire foundation of your posture flexible, supple and strong. Simple yet very powerful and effective calf and foot stretches pictured here will do wonders for keeping the foot healthy. Rolling out our feet on Yoga Tune Up therapy balls is also a fabulous self care method. My prenatal yoga students love the therapy balls to help relieve sore feet!
You deserve healthy flexible feet. Pay attention, and keep them free from pain.
This video demonstrates some wonderful foot pain relief self-care techniques from Jill Miller one of my favorite teachers and mentors. I frequently bring the therapy balls to my classes.