Do your feet look like this?
I'm guessing they're pretty close, but believe it or not your feet shouldn’t actually look like a tin of squashed sardines! Years of wearing shoes that were not designed with your normal foot shape in mind lead to adaptations and changes in the foot, affecting the shape by altering the soft tissue and musculature of the foot.
Even if you’re highly active, you likely don’t spend much time training your feet, but your feet are the foundation for your whole body, and if you have pain or issues in your feet, it will affect the rest of your body. If we think of our body as a kinetic chain, the feet are the foundation, and the main source of information for your brain. That's why they have one of the highest concentration or sensory nerves in your body! Keep them suffocated in shoes all the time, and you're going to have some problems!
Foot issues have become so prevalent that orthotics and insoles are a staple in almost everyone’s shoe. But, it’s important to realize that these insoles merely act as a crutch, and don’t help resolve the cause of the problem or begin to correct any of the issues with your foot.
To figure out the best solution to solve your foot problems, let’s start with a simple assessment that you can perform on your own. The overhead squat assessment can help you determine what exactly is going on in your feet, and then we can create a plan to correct it. To pass the overhead squat assessment (OHSA), you should be able to keep your feet pointing straight ahead with the knees in line with the second and third toe, a neutral ankle, and your torso parallel with your lower leg.
The most common compensations we usually see for the lower body during this assessment are the feet turning out or flattening, the knees falling inward, or an excessive forward lean in the torso. All of these things point to instability in either the foot/ankle or hip complex and give us a framework to correct it. If you exhibit these compensations during your OHSA then there is an additional assessment that you can perform to determine whether the problem is stemming from your foot or hip.
Simply elevate the heels and retest the OHSA; if your compensation disappears, then the issue lies in your foot and ankle complex. Elevating the heels takes the calves and ankle joint out of the equation, so if you’re compensations remain, then the problem most likely is originating from the hip complex.
Correcting your foot and ankle problems
If you determine that you do have some weaknesses in your feet and ankles, don't worry, we've got a solution for you! Even if you don't display the compensations above, if you spend time on your feet (I'm guessing you do) then give this routine a try! Here is a sample corrective exercise routine that you can use to begin to correct some of the issues through your foot and ankle.
If your feet and ankles bother you regularly, then it’s time to show them some love! Try out this corrective exercise routine, find some shoes that better suit your feet, and walk around barefoot more often! Then sit back and watch as your pain and posture begin to improve!
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