No mean feet

Why our humble feet may be the lynchpin to overall physical health.

Us humans love to pamper ourselves, whether it be a relaxing back massage, a snazzy new hairstyle or a luxurious manicure. Yet we often neglect the one part of our body that endures the most stress of all, and that’s our feet.

Miles of pounding the pavements in sweaty running shoes; evenings spent strutting around bars in pinching high heels; and long work shifts in flat loafers. They all take their toll on your tootsies as they support you from morning till night.

But while you may be familiar with many podiatry ailments such as corns, calluses and blisters, you may not realise that your foot alignment may be affecting other areas of your body as well, such as that creaking in your knees, the ache in your hips or nagging lower back pain.

It may come as some surprise to realise that many of our joint ailments are caused by ill-fitting footwear – whether that’s a lack of support, a too-narrow fit, or heels that contort your bones – but as we often focus more on the aesthetics rather than practical features, it is a common problem. In short, your passion for fashion may be sparking a chain reaction all through your body that causes constant discomfort and pain.

The solution? First ascertain where your problem lies and then purchase shoes to correct it. Sometimes this means accepting that narrow shoes are not suitable for your wide feet or that the flip flops you buy need a little more support. Fortunately, most podiatry brands now available have many stylish options and there are also simple exercises you can do to bring your feet back into alignment… and your whole body into harmony.

Misaligned feet problems and how to fix them

Bunions

Presenting on either the outer side of the big toe or less commonly the little toe (bunionette), bunions are a bony lump created by the metatarsal either enlarging or moving outwards. Caused by either wearing shoes that are too narrow or too high, tight calf muscles or feet that tilt either inwards or outwards, they can become incredibly painful and swollen.

Choosing shoes that have a wide toe box and arch support will take pressure off your bunions, while calf stretches may also improve them as well. Otherwise, your best option is foot surgery.

Flat Feet

Either inherent or caused by a collapsed arch, flat feet can lead to numerous problems throughout the body. Less able to absorb shock, flat feet can leave you more vulnerable to shin splints, inflamed Achilles tendons and general knee discomfort.

Wearing insoles specifically designed for the condition, or specialised orthotics, can greatly improve not only foot discomfort, but general alignment throughout the body.

Heel Pain

Plantar fasciitis, or inflammation of the plantar fascia – the strong bowstring-like ligament that runs from the heel to the tip of the foot – causes pain not only in the heel, but also in the middle of the foot and also muscle cramps in the calves. This is often the result of repetitive stress and pounding from walking or running due to poor foot alignment.

While anti-inflammatory medications will help soothe discomfort, true relief will only come from orthotics (possibly to slightly raise the heel) or exercises that stretch the tendons and strengthen the lower leg muscles creating strength and stability in the ankle and heel.

The good news is that while our feet are the lynchpin to greater body health, they are malleable and responsive to treatment for almost all of their lifespan, so seek help, a true diagnosis, and get your whole body back in shape.