Everyone knows how exercise can give us tighter abs, a firm butt and great biceps, but exercise can also give you strong, healthy feet.
I know most people think their feet get enough exercise, but walking—even a lot—in supportive shoes, does NOT exercise your feet. It may exercise your legs and your triceps, but not the 18 muscles in each arch of our feet or many of the other muscles entering our feet.
Supportive shoes, arch supports, and orthotics allow our feet to function without needing to work most of our foot muscles. As the saying goes, use it or lose it. Worse, without strong muscles our feet are at risk for injury.
In general, shoes are detrimental to feet. Scientists and doctors have known about the effects of footwear on our feet for over 50 years, but most of the public believes feet require expensive, supportive shoes. In fact, in 1949 The Journal of the National Association of Chiropodists published “Survey of Feet in China and India That Have Never Worn Shoes.” The researchers concluded:
“People who have never worn shoes acquire very few foot defects, most of which are painless and non-debilitating. Shoes are not necessary for healthy feet and are the cause of most foot troubles. Footgear is the greatest enemy of the human foot.”
Clearly, the first step to healthy feet is to give up supportive shoes—or at least limit the amount of time your feet are in shoes.
By simply walking barefoot, you will start to use your foot muscles and your feet will soon become stronger. (Note: Only healthy people should give up their shoes. Persons with diabetes, poor circulation, impaired sensation or other serious problems should wear shoes.)
The best way to wean off supportive shoes and increase barefoot activity is by going slowly, and by supplementing barefoot activity with foot exercises.
Now, there are two sources for foot exercises. One is the book Fantastic Feet by Aliesa George and the other is the FootBook by Dr. Paul Conneely.
Fantastic Feet and the FootBook are both great little books with plenty of photographs and detailed, easy to understand instructions. Fantastic Feet is for the public, written in layperson’s terms. The FootBook is for physicians, written in medical terms. Some of the exercises in the books are the same but many are different, and for those who are serious about their foot health, both books offer unique and highly beneficial exercises.
These books provide a superb workout for your feet, ankles, toes and arches. In fact, many of the exercises will benefit your entire lower extremity! From each book you can choose a handful of exercises that suits your needs and soon you will be on your way to healthy, strong feet.
Image Credit dancer in ballet shoes dancing in Pointe on a wooden floor Photos by Pond5