Wendy Midgley, MEd, RD, LDN, CDE & Deb Brothers-Klezmer, BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB
“And forget not that the Earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
As Summer approaches–winter boots are stored away and our feet are back in sandals, flip-flops, or simply walking barefoot in the backyard! This season is a glorious time for thoroughly enjoying the outdoors and long daylight hours. That feeling of FREEDOM, experienced as children in Summer, is re-ignited!
In Summer, we spend more time on our feet: going outside for no particular reason, hiking and biking more, playing tennis, taking long walks on the beach, or just pushing the lawn mower. We may find ourselves dancing more–as we attend weddings and other celebrations typical of this season. Whatever the occasion, we are spending greater periods of time on our feet.
***We need our feet to work for us! And– we need to treat them with care and appreciate them!***
A healthy FOOT is a necessity for so many activities. We take our feet for granted–using them automatically and not thinking about them until they are not working properly!! Besides the usual walking and running–we need them for standing in line at the supermarket or bank, and for numerous sports, for example: balancing on a surf-board or paddle-board, swimming, yoga postures, Tai Chi and Karate poses, rock climbing, or leveraging our weight in a kayak.
Several occupations depend on our feet serving us well, including: nursing, hairdressing, teaching, construction work, food service, retail careers, and many more.
STRUCTURE of the FOOT
“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” — Leonardo da Vinci–
The remarkable foot is made up of a total of 26 bones, 2 in the rear-foot (or hind-foot), 5 in the mid-foot and 19 making up the forefoot and toes. There are also 33 joints, 19 muscles, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments associated with the foot and ankle. A network of blood vessels, nerves, skin, cartilage, fascia, and soft tissue completes the structure–and supports the foot’s function. All the components work together to provide the body with strength, support, balance, and mobility
***”The foot is a perfect marriage of form and function.” *** (from “Basic Anatomy of the Foot” @ http://www.wefixfeet.ca/images/pdf/anatomyofthefoot.pdf ) The human foot has mechanical complexity as well as strength.
The rear foot consists of the Talus and Calcaneus. The Talus connects the foot to the ankle by forming a joint with Tibia and Fibula bones of the lower leg. The calcaneus lies under the Talus, forming the heel bone. The ankle offers us a strong foundation-and acts as a shock absorber and propulsion engine–from which we “take off.”
The mid-foot consists of the Cuboid on the outside of the foot and Navicular bone next to this, on the inside of the foot. The remaining 3 bones are the Cuneiforms, situated in front of the Navicular. These 5 bones are known as the Tarsals, forming the arch of the foot.
The forefoot is made up of 5 Metatarsals (starting at the big toe), and 14 Phalanges, http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/anatomy/foot-anatomy
MASSAGE and REFLEXOLOGY for FOOT HEALTH
FOOT MASSAGE offers many possible benefits for a variety of situations, for example: alleviation of general foot pain, stress reduction and relaxation, and relief for the swollen feet of pregnancy. It is important that you work with professionally trained massage practitioners, especially if you are pregnant (in some cases, reflexology can trigger labor). http://www.livestrong.com/foot-massages/
FOOT REFLEXOLOGY is a complementary therapy which can help stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and balance the body. It is based on the Eastern healing systems which recognize 7200 nerve endings in the feet. These nerve endings have connections through the spinal cord and brain–that effect all parts of the body. The feet are said to be: ‘the mirror of the body, each organ is represented on the foot’. Some organs are found on both feet, some on only one foot.
Foot reflexology also works on ‘energy zones’ throughout the body that end in the feet. Properly trained, experienced practitioners detect dysfunctions in these zones and correct energy flow by applying pressure on specific areas. Foot reflexology unblocks energy flows and increases blood circulation–helping to restore health and equilibrium.
Reflexology may be of benefit for several stress-related and health issues. This modality treats symptoms as well as causes of a disorder–to restore the body’s natural harmony.
NOTE: For intense foot massage and/or reflexology treatments: check with your medical practitioner before signing up for sessions. Foot reflexology and/or therapeutic foot massage can be powerful!
WALKING PACE and YOUR HEALTH
- In 2009, a team of researchers discovered a strong association between the speed of someone’s walk and their chances of developing heart disease.
- There are also indications that people who walk faster have several decreased health risks. For example: a slow walk is associated with an increased risk for dementia. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/16/could-the-way-you-walk-predict-dementia-chances_n_1282026.html “Could the Way you Walk Predict Your Risk of Dementia?”
- The Faster the Pace—the Better the Odds for Longevity: An 80-year-old man who clocks 1 mile per hour has a 10% probability of reaching 90, while a woman of the same age walking at that pace has a 23% chance. Up that speed to 3.5 mph and the 80-year-old man has an 84% probability of reaching 90, while a woman would have an 86% chance.
10,000 STEPS ADVICE
The American Heart Association recommends that everyone aim for 10,000 steps (roughly five miles) a day for overall health and to decrease the risk of heart disease.
Invest in a good pedometer or a more complex gadget like a “Fitbit” and track your steps! Find ways to add in extra steps by parking your car further away in parking lots, taking stairs more often, and walking for short distances–instead of hopping in the car.
SYMBOLISM of the FEET
Some psychologists and health practitioners attribute meanings to each part of the body. The feet, and the knees, are believed to carry the energy of our lower emotions (such as fear, defeat, loss, depression, sadness, shame, guilt). The lower body can therefore feel heavier, and more dense.
According to healer and teacher Louise Hay, the feet represent our understanding of ourselves, of life, and others. In her book: You Can Heal Your Life, foot problems are said to represent fear of the future and of not stepping forward in life.
Inflammation (like arthritis and joint paint) in these parts of the body may indicate you are nursing hurt feelings. Stubborn, inflexible resentment goes to the knees and joints–the parts of your body that are designed to be open and flexible.
If you are having knee and feet issues, ask yourself: Am I being rigid and inflexible? Have I created too many rules in my life? Am I holding on to the past and carrying the heavy weight of this? http://www.enlightenedfeelings.com/symptoms.html
***When feet and knees are healthy, we are feeling more OPEN, FLEXIBLE, and TRUSTING, not worrying about the future. We are looking ahead: ready and able to move forward with EASE.
***If you are having any health issues with your feet and knees, or of they are simply feeling “heavy”–work with your health practitioner–to free up the energy, and release pain and stuckness.***
FUN FOOT PHENOMONON
“How Smart is your Right Foot?”
1. While sitting at your desk in front of your computer, lift your right foot and make clockwise circles.
2. While doing this, draw the number 6 in the air with your right hand.
What happens to your Right foot? In the majority of circumstances, your right foot will change directions and go counterclockwise! The explanation is in how the brain is pre-programmed or “wired” to work.
Now try it with the left foot and left hand!
Did you know?:
- “The foot can sustain enormous pressure (several tons over the course of a one-mile run) and provide flexibility and resiliency.” http://www.healthcommunities.com/foot-anatomy/foot-anatomy-overview.shtml
- A structural flaw or malfunction in any part of the foot can result in problems developing elsewhere in the body (like back pain). Conversely–structural abnormalities in other parts of the body can lead to problems in the feet.
TO go BAREFOOT….. or to WEAR SHOES? (or biking shoes, or running shoes, or golf shoes, or hiking boots or work boots……. ad infinitum!!!!!)
Summer is the perfect time to experience going barefoot: toes buried in warm beach sand, or the feel of soft grass touching the bottom of our feet. However, it is also imperative to know when to wear proper shoes or boots, or protective water-proof sandals on rocky shorelines.
***Be smart about your feet to protect ourselves from injury, blisters and callouses, infection, insect bites, and even severe sunburn.***
BENEFITs of GOING BARE-FOOT: There are many health and well-being benefits to going barefoot if it is safe to do so. These include:
1. Grounding to Mother Earth
We are “electrical beings.” Our bodies regularly produce POSITIVE charges, which can oxidize or harm us if excessive. The Earth’s surface is electrically conductive, maintaining a NEGATIVE charge and a continuous supply of free or mobile electrons.
Our modern lifestyle has increasingly separated us from the flow of Earth’s balancing electrons. We often wear synthetic, rubber or plastic-soled shoes instead of leather. Many folks work and live in settings far removed from Nature and never touch the Earth with bare skin.
When we walk barefoot on the Earth, we absorb negatively charged electrons. Evidence suggests that Earth’s negative charge can create “a stable internal bioelectrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems,” including setting our biological clocks and supporting normal cortisol levels.
***The Earth acts as a potent antioxidant and may have an anti-inflammatory effect and delay the aging process.***
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/09/20/barefoot-on-electron-deficiency.aspxn “Why Walking Barefoot May be an Essential Element of Good Health”
2. Clearing the Mind
In walking barefoot, we need to pay attention: being on the look-out for glass, sharp rocks and thorns, and insects! Awareness of what’s in front of us naturally brings us into the present moment—which is associated with more calm and ease with life.
3. Free Foot Yoga
Walking barefoot strengthens and stretches muscles, tendons and ligaments in the feet, ankles and calves. This greater strength and flexibility helps prevent injuries, knee strain and back problems. Walking barefoot works muscles not used when wearing shoes. We can naturally create better posture and balance when walking barefoot.
4. Free Reflexology Session
Walking barefoot in the grass can help decrease anxiety and depression and increase the levels of “feel good endorphins.” Endorphins are chemicals naturally manufactured in the brain. They are often called “the natural opiates of the body”.
5. A Good Night’s Sleep
The Ancients believed that walking on the Earth promoted a good night’s sleep. This belief is related to calming bioelectrical effects–as discussed under 1. “Grounding to Mother Earth.”
6. Gets us Back to What Matters
Going barefoot outside not only involves our feet, but also the rest of our body! In the great outdoors, we are able to connect with Mother Nature in infinite ways: sunshine on our face and bare arms; hearing and feeling the wind in the trees, listening to birds singing. It’s easier to connect to our higher power or Source when in touch with Nature. Insights and intuitions come to us more easily.
7. Possible Improvements in the following Health Conditions: Sleep disturbances including sleep apnea; chronic muscle and joint pain, general pain, asthma and respiratory conditions, Rheumatoid arthritis, pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), Immune response issues, hypertension, heart rate variability, energy levels, bone strength (anti-osteoporosis treatment), stress levels, and fasting glucose levels among those w/diabetes.
http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4369/7-Health-Benefits-of-Going-Barefoot-Outside.html “The Surprising Health Benefits of Going Barefoot
TIPS for PROPER FOOT-WEAR
We all have 10 toes and 2 heels; and that’s about all that our feet have in common!
- Feet should be measured 2x/year. Our feet do change as we get older. Sometimes 1 foot is 1/2 to 1 full size different from the other.
- Purchase footwear towards the end of the day–as that’s when feet are the largest.
- Make sure that you bring socks (or orthotics if you wear them) when you purchase shoes.
- Make sure new shoes feel comfortable right away before you buy them. It is not true that we will “break in” uncomfortable shoes. Make sure there is ~ 1/2 inch between the front of your big toe and the end of the shoe (this is about a thumb’s width.) The heel should fit relatively tightly and should not slip out when you walk. The upper part of your shoe–which goes over the top of your foot–should be snug and secure, but not too tight anywhere.
- According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: when a shoe fits right or properly, you should be able to freely wiggle all of your toes when the shoe is on.
- SNEAKERS should be replaced every 350-400 miles.
- With any shoe—once the back of the sole is worn out or shoes feels uncomfortable or less supportive—it is time for some shoe retail therapy!
Although feet were designed to walk barefoot on Mother Earth’s surfaces–they were not prepared to endure the concrete asphalt and steel that exists today. These unmovable surfaces are harsh on bare feet; and thin, rubber-soled flip-flops do not sufficiently absorb the shock.
With injuries such as stubbed toes, sprained ankles, broken bones, blistered feet, misalignment and pain in the knees, neck, hips and back–a properly fitting shoe is imperative. Flat shoes such as flip-flops provide little arch or lateral support and can lead to misalignment: causing pain in the hips, knees and back. Flip-flop straps can rub while walking, creating friction that leads to blisters. People often wear flip-flops for everything–when doing so is not always a wise choice. Flip-flops CAN be useful or practical for the beach, pool-side, or in a locker room where germs proliferate.
***Be more discerning re: when to wear flip-flops.****
- Websites for Supportive FootWear: www.orthaheelusa.com, www.walkpainfree.com www.jambu.com, www.Ahnu.com, www.footsmart.com
- People with plantar fasciitis often avoid walking, as the pain is so uncomfortable. Certain shoes are constructed for this ailment, making walking easier. For a variety of shoe styles for plantar fasciitis, go to: http://www.healthyfeetstore.com/shoes-for-plantar-fasciitis.html
- Non-supportive footwear is always contraindicated for diabetics! There are a number of websites that offer footwear that is appropriate, as well as fashionable, for those with diabetes, e.g.: http://www.healthyfeetstore.com/diabeticshoes.html (walking shoes, work shoes, sandals, & clogs)
TIPs for FOOT HEALTH this SUMMER and Beyond
- Choose the proper footwear for your various activities.
- Take an outdoor Yoga or Tai Chi class. Go barefoot, if safe to. Connect your energy–through your toes and the soles of your feet–to Mother Earth.
- Wear sturdy boots or heavy-duty shoes while pushing a lawnmower—NEVER go BARE-FOOT!!
- Apply sunscreen products on bare feet (as well as the rest of exposed skin) while out in the Sun. Tops of feet and toes can easily get sunburned!
- Walk on well-cleared paths as much as possible, to limit exposure to ticks and other insects.
- If you are hiking in grassy areas: be sure to apply tick and bug repellant on your lower legs and feet area ahead of time. Wear light socks and light pants or shorts–so that you can see possible ticks or insects on your body.
NOTE: If using heavy-duty tick spray: spray it on your clothes—before you put them on, thus avoiding direct contact with chemicals.
- If you have Diabetes–be sure to wear properly fitting shoes, sandals, or hiking boots so that you will not get blisters or callouses. Opt for a stylish but well-fitting sandal over flip-flops. Examine your feet regularly for cuts, bug bites, black and blues, wounds.
- If you have gout in your toes or arthritis in the bones of your feet: use this Summer-time to clean up your diet, limit alcohol, and drink more water: at least 8 glasses per day in hot weather.
- Watch your step so that you don’t end up with a sprained ankle or worse. Is there a slippery rock ahead or a pothole on the path?
- Indoor Tips: Clear floors of clutter and any items you could easily trip over, e.g.: wires, cords, throw rugs. Clean up spills immediately. Install night lights in stairways, entrances and walkways, bedrooms and bathrooms.
- Thank your feet for all that they do for you! And remember the old Irish Proverb:
“Your feet will take you to where your heart is.”
We wish you a wonderful Summer of fun, play, and connection! Take good care of your feet so they can serve you well. May they help you dance with Joy this Summer, and take you to wherever you want to go!!
Deb and Wendy,
The Wellness Shifter Ladies!!!!
- Katy Bowman, MS. Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet
- Jonathan D. Rose, DPM and Vincent J. Mortarana, DMP. The Foot Book: A Complete Guide to Healthy Feet (a John Hopkins University book)
- Paul C. Bragg, PhD. Build Strong Healthy Feet: Making a Stand for Healthy Feet.
Articles on the web:
- http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/how-your-feet-work-and-three-steps-to-keeping-them-healthy “How Your Feet Work and Three Steps for Keeping them Healthy”
- http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/complications_feet/ “Prevent Diabetes Complications: Keep Your Feet and Skin Healthy”
- http://www.yogajournal.com/health/2292 “Happy Feet
- http://www.lifescript.com/life/looks/fix-its/4_foot_woes_you_shouldnt_ignore.aspx “Do you Have Healthy Feet?”
- http://www.caring.com/articles/18-things-your-feet-say-about-your-health “18 Things Your Feet Say About Your Health”
- http://www.healthylifestyleletter.com/healthy-feet-healthy-lifestyle/ “Healthy Feet/Take Care of Your Biggest Supporters”
- http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/09/20/barefoot-on-electron-deficiency.aspx “Why Walking Barefoot May be an Element of Good Health”
- http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/walking/HQ00885_D “Walking Shoes: Features and Fit that Keep you Moving”
- 2000Footphysicians.com. “Healthy Feet for an Active Life.” Foot & Ankle Information. 200515. Feb. 2006 http://footphysicians.com/footankleinfo
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