How fit are your feet?
Canadians are overlooking an important part of their exercise routine. A recent omnibus poll conducted for Toronto-based company, Barefoot Science, found that more than 50 per cent of us suffer from tired or sore feet and foot pain. No surprise when you consider that while a large majority of these same respondents reported engaging in regular physical fitness activities, only a small number participated in activities to strengthen toes, foot muscles or arches.
How important is it to exercise your feet? “Very important,” according to experts such as Toronto-based chiropractor and author Bruce Comstock, B. Sc., D.C. “Because of the restrictions to the natural movements of your feet, long-term shoe-wearing, even athletic shoes, can cause ‘tired foot syndrome,’ which leads to foot and lower-limb joint-related ailments.”
The damage can begin in early childhood when children are outfitted in rigid, inflexible shoes which are meant to support, but instead these shoes restrict natural movement, weakening the muscles in the foot and changing the shape and positioning of the toes.
Barefoot Science, makers of innovative insoles that strenghen feet by mimicking the experience of walking barefoot, offer this routine to keep your feet fit and help prevent injury:
Choose flexible shoes
Select soft, non-restrictive footwear that allows your toes to wiggle easily. Keep laces tied loosely.
Do curled-toe stretches
With shoes off, extend your leg outward. Stretch and point your foot downwards, curling your toes, and hold for 30 seconds. You should feel a mild stretch in the top of the foot through the front of the shin just below the knee. Repeat with the other foot. Note: the stretch should not create strain, discomfort, or pain.
Do raised-toe foot and calf stretches
With your shoes and socks off, stand at a 45-degree angle facing a wall. Place the forefoot (ball of the foot area) and toes of the foot closest to the wall against the wall. Keep your heel on the floor. Your foot should be raised at a 45-degree angle. Keeping the knee bent, gently push it towards the wall to create a mild stretch through the bottom of your foot and calf, and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat this stretch with the knee straight and hold for 30 seconds. Again, the stretch should not create strain, discomfort, or pain.
Walk barefoot on grass or sand in the warmer months to stimulate your feet through direct ground contact.
Consider “barefoot-like” insoles
When going without shoes isn’t an option, consider wearing Barefoot Science insoles to imitate the advantages of being barefoot, strengthen your arches and restore proper foot function. For more information, visit www.BarefootScience.com.
Walking the walk: a few footnotes
• The average person takes approximately 8,000 steps every day.
• Most shoes weigh too much. The average pair of dress shoes weighs over two pounds – equal to a cumulative daily foot load of over 8 tons!
• Soft and flexible shoes are better. Stiff shoes prevent the foot from connecting properly with the ground, resisting the foot’s natural movement.
• Shoes should not be too tight or snug. Ideally, even laced up athletic footwear should slide on and off easily.
• Men’s feet are affected by wearing shoes as much as women’s. By age 12 or 13, both boys’ and girls’ feet have lost their natural form and full functionality.
• Thick cushioning soles interfere with the sensory perception required for the muscles of the foot to work properly.
• Even “sensible” heels as low as one inch can have a negative impact on posture and gait.
• Dancers, athletes and everyday walkers are using products like Barefoot Science’s special insoles to tap in to the traditional benefits of going barefoot. To learn more, visit www.BarefootScience.com.