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What do your feet say about your health?

by Dominique Vanier, B.Sc.H., M.Env.Sc., on 23 February 2016, Muscle and joint
feet

Our feet are the foundation of the musculoskeletal system. Feet provide our body with strength and stability, and enable fluid and synchronized movement by providing flexibility and mobility.

When we use ill-fitting footwear, the rest of the body suffers. A combination of improper care, decades of wear-and-tear, and an average of 10,000 steps per day can often lead to pain-related foot pathologies…

Did you know that 25 per cent of your bones are located in your feet? Often overlooked, the foot is surprisingly one of the most complex and vital parts of the body containing 26 bones, 33 joints, 112 ligaments, and multiple tendons, nerves, and blood vessels.

About 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a foot problem this year. In fact, 75 per cent of Canadians will experience foot health problems at one point in their lives. One such cause is poorly-fitting footwear – a risk factor that is entirely preventable.

Foot type

Your foot type says a lot about your musculoskeletal health. For example, your foot type can result in pain-free movement, or chronic pain, joint issues, and immobility.

If you have a flat foot type, your foot tends to roll inward and pronates upon weight bearing. This places increased stress on the inner aspect of the foot, and causes the inside of the shoe to wear out. Issues associated with a flat foot type include plantar fasciitis, patellar pain, hip pain, and metatarsal stress fractures.

Supination is the opposite foot movement to pronation. If you are a supinator foot type, you have a high arched foot and an outward roll upon walking. Outward rolling places abnormal strain on the muscles and tendons that are responsible for stabilizing the lateral aspect of the ankle. Typically, a high arched foot type leads to less shock absorption, which causes transference of movement impact up the leg to the trunk. If uncorrected, some consequences of this foot type include recurrent ankle sprains, tibial (shinbone) fractures, Achilles tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis.

Surprisingly, your genes play only a minor role in the early development of foot pathologies. While babies are born with flat feet, our feet naturally develop an arch in childhood. As we age, we progressively loose this arch resulting in adult-onset fallen arches. Luckily, there are some lifestyle modifications that can help support your feet, body framework, and overall health.

Below are 5 tips to maintain good foot health:

  • Ditch the heels. Women are 4 times more likely than men to experience foot problems – a consequence likely due to wearing high heels over prolonged periods of time.
  • Ease the pain. For symptomatic relief, arnica gel or devil’s claw extract can soothe muscle and joint inflammation.
  • Foot arch exercises. If you lack foot arches, there are several exercises that can force the muscles in your foot to develop an arch. These include the “towel scrunch,” which involves standing on a towel and using your feet to scrunch it back toward you, bunching it under your foot. Perform 3 sets of 10 towel-scrunching each day.
  • Purchase orthotics. High-quality, custom-fit orthotics will reshape your arch and provide the support your foot needs. If the aches and pains in your joints are due to your foot type, orthotics may be the only solution needed.
  • Maintain a healthy BMI. A high BMI is a risk factor for developing flat feet. If you are experiencing adverse musculoskeletal health issues due to your flat foot type, engage in weekly physical activity to help reduce pain and lessen symptoms. Ensure you are eating a healthy diet that consists of leafy green vegetables, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates.

References:
http://www.apma.org/files/FileDownloads/APMAFootAilmentsSurveyNewsWorthyAnalysis012309.pdf
http://www.podiatryinfocanada.ca/public/Facts
http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/what-are-fallen-arches?page=2

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