Do your feet feel stiff? Are you walking with joyful purpose? Learn how to improve your foot mobility with a few simple exercises.
By nature, the human body evolved in a specialized way to perform movement tasks like walking, running, crawling and climbing. We obviously did not evolve to sit in chairs all day. If that were the case, we would have a completely different human structure. Can you even imagine what that would look like?!
Our ancestors were not driving SUV’s to the grocery store while wearing athletic shoes or high heels. They were doing physical work and hiking through nature to provide nourishment for themselves. Although we have modern-day luxuries that make putting dinner on the table a breeze, we still have the same body structures as earlier humans did. Although modern civilization has provided humans with tools to make life easier our functional DNA has not changed over time.
Walking is essential
One of the movements that evolution provided us is the ability to be very efficient at walking for long distances. Mile for mile, walking is more energy-efficient than running which was a good choice for our ancestors. And we still have the same potential for covering long distances even if we have become deconditioned for it.
Are your feet immobilized?
Do you think we developed our amazing, articulate, sensory-filled feet by walking on concrete all day or constricting our feet in immobilizing, desensitizing shoes day in and day out? No, we did not.
By walking only on concrete in restrictive shoes we miss out on a richness of movement in our feet, ankles, knees, pelvis, and spine. We take away the ability to sense changing textures and shapes with our feet and therefore the ability to respond to them. If our body cannot learn to respond to the changes in terrain then the body cannot adapt resulting in the increased chance for falls or injuries.
Walk on a path
What to do then? Try taking more walks in nature on trails rather than paved paths. Chose to walk over rocks or logs, move sideways between trees and duck under branches. Experiment with walking barefoot in safe places or trading out your stiff-soled shoes for a shoe that is lighter and more flexible.
Call me crazy, but what if we all started walking to have an experience rather than for burning calories or clocking miles on a smartwatch? If that’s what it takes to get you moving, then do it. But if walking were a pleasurable and sensory-rich experience maybe we wouldn’t need the electronic motivation.
How to improve your foot mobility
Here are a few foot exercises to perform to balance out the effect of wearing shoes all day and give you good, healthy foot mobility for those nice long walks coming up.
• Heel Raises – slowly lift heels and balance on the balls of your feet then lower
• Toe Towel Scrunches – grasp with your toes to scrunch the towel toward you
• Foot Massage – using tennis ball roll the length of the foot
• Foot Massage – using tennis ball roll under the ball of the foot to evert and invert the foot
• Calf stretch – roll a blanket and carefully stand on it so heels are lower than toes
• Plantar flexion – while seated bend knee and rest top of the foot on the floor
• Plantar flexion – while seated point foot and curl toes under pressing the top of foot into the floor
If you’re experiencing some pain that prevents you from walking the distances you’d like to then set up a FREE SCREENING with one of INVIVO’S physical therapy providers. We’d love to help you get moving.