Reset Your Feet to Restore Your Body
Aug 13, 2022
Your feet are your connection to the world. At least they should be. They aren’t just platforms you stand and walk on; they are meant to be your fluid, strong, springy, tactile informative members guiding you through the world. They are supposed to be mobile messengers of the surfaces and environments they navigate you through. They are also meant to keep your body strong and agile; healthy feet equal a healthy body.
I keep saying “should,” “supposed to,” and “meant.” That’s because most of us have traded in the strength and dexterity of our feet for weak, stiff boards that can’t feel the world or adequately support the body. We’ve lost our connection to the world and our connection to our own bodies. Weak feet yield a compromised body that will also respond with weakness.
How could it not? If our connection to the world is compromised and cannot adequately inform our brain with the information it’s looking for, how can the brain send out appropriate information to the body? How can the body be expected to move well if the feet aren't moving well? The entire body stands on and responds to the strength and information of the feet.
If we really want to be as healthy as possible, perhaps the first thing we need to look at is the health of our feet. As it turns out, they are meant to be very mobile and strong. Each has 26 bones and 33 joints - they are literally made for fluid strength. But most of us rob them of their fluidity through the use of shoes. We also have over 7000 nerve endings in each foot; these nerves are intended to read and interpret the world we stand in and move on. But again, in shoes, no matter the shoe, we blunt and inhibit these nerve endings from being able to truly interpret the world. As a result, we rob the brains’ ability to fully command the proper muscular responses and movements we make as we stand, walk, and run.
Shoes have been giving the clever name of foot coffins, and that’s fairly accurate. They cause immobility in the joints of the feet, atrophy in the muscles of the feet, and a loss of sensory input from the feet. They actually erode the health of the foot, which means they end up eroding the health of the body.
Fortunately, our body is amazingly designed for health and strength. It can repair, restore, and heal from much of the abuse, neglect, and accidental ignorance that we put it through. In other words, we can work on restoring our feet. We just need to be intentional in doing so.
Before I give you some ways to begin restoring your feet, I understand that we live in a world where shoes are necessities and expectations. It’s not practical or even wise to ditch shoes, especially in knee-jerk fashion. But, something is always better than nothing, and a little goes a long, long way regarding your body. Spending some deliberate time outside of shoes and outside of socks can be very helpful in resetting the health, vigor, and sensory receptors of the feet.
So don’t ditch your shoes. But do look for shoes that accommodate for foot health.
Ok, here we go. Here are a few ways to restore your feet:
- Walk around the house naked - at least let your feet be naked. Don’t even wear socks. Let your feet learn to feel different textures (carpet, hardwoods, tile, rugs, etc.). Let them learn how to move and respond to stable, firm surfaces.
- Mobilize your feet by rocking on your hands and knees - Rocking is a powerful “Reset” that can also reset your feet. By rocking on your hands and knees, you can gently position your feet in plantar flexion (top of the foot on the floor) or dorsiflexion (ball of the foot on the floor) with your heals dropped to the outside or held neutral, or dropped to the inside. This allows you to gently move those 33 joints in your feet without much strain or load being placed on them. Putting your feet in different positions while you rock back and forth helps to reintegrate the joints of your feet with ALL the other moving joints of your body. It helps the brain to remember and relearn where the feet are, providing a better movement map of the body, ultimately leading to a better expression of the entire body when you are living your life out in the world. Here's a video of rocking: https://youtu.be/5e08_N8Ca7M
- Go barefoot outside for at least 10 minutes - Much like walking around with naked feet inside your home, having naked feet outside is invaluable. For one thing, it’s a true way to connect to the earth (called “earthing” or “grounding”). It actually helps keep your body healthy. I won’t get too deep into that here, but you can Google Earthing and dive as deep as you want. Basically, you came from the earth and are meant to be connected to it, not isolated from it. You’re meant to be grounded, literally. Another reason you want to walk outside is once again because of the texture. Feeling different surfaces and different types of grass and sand can be an amazing sensory experience that floods your brain with soothing, healing information. Be smart, and look where you are stepping!
- Spread your toes - consider getting Correct Toes or Yoga Toes to spread your toes apart. As it turns out, Fred Flintstone’s feet are the feet we should all have. Squeezing our toes together in cramped toe boxes of shoes is detrimental to the health of our feet and causes a whole host of problems. Also, look for shoes with wide-toe boxes. Allow your feet to spread naturally in your shoes. Many companies now make shoes intended for the natural shape of the foot. Check out Vivo, Xero, Alta, Topo, Lems, Vibrams, or just go barefoot.
- Look for Zero drop shoes - heel lifts alter everything. They rob your ankles of mobility and actually change the angle of the relationship between your pelvis and low back, weakening the abdominals and shortening the low back muscles. Remember, posture is reflexive - it’s a response to the information the brain is getting from the body. Shoes with elevated heels cause the posture to adapt and change to the information being received. That information is often “I’m falling forward. I need to adjust my joints to keep my body upright.”
This is not an exhaustive list. But this is a doable way to begin restoring the health of your feet and, therefore, the health of your body. Just show up every day and do one or more of these things. This is the important part. Showing up tells your brain you want something. If you intentionally show up daily and tell your brain you want mobile, healthy feet, it will grant your wish. Along with that, it will begin building a mobile, healthy body as well.
Take care of your feet! It’s important.