Written and medically reviewed by Dr. Brenda, DPT
Yes that's right - your feet are connected to your core! This is one of my favorite, sneaky tips - that activating your foot can truly help activate your deep core and pelvic floor! The function, mobility, strength, and coordination of your feet make a difference! How?
Each foot has 26 bones and 33 joints. That's a lot of moving parts! It needs to be able to adapt to the ground, including many different surfaces, and needs to be able to have the strength, coordination, and tissue integrity to then be able to push off from the ground and set the rest of our body up for success in movement. All the muscles and organs in our body are surrounded by a web-like material called fascia. This fascia runs in lines throughout our body and essentially connects muscle systems together. It is via fascia that our foot function is connected into the function of our deep core, including our pelvic floor.
A (slightly) weird fact about me: I am barefoot as much as I can be. I am often made fun of for it because I walk around my neighborhood barefoot, even in the winter (when it's not freezing). When I was going to clients' homes, I would often walk out of the house without my shoes on, not noticing until i got into my car, and had to go back and knock on their door saying I forgot my shoes.....and I'm embarrassed (or proud) to say that this happened more than once! I have always loved the feeling of my feet on the ground. And it turns out it's quite advantageous to our biomechanics. Quite literally, your feet set up your body - the way your feet interact with the ground is literally the foundation for all of the other joints and muscles in your body. It affects your posture, your core, your mechanics, and everything else. Now of course there are many other factors to consider throughout the body, but the mobility AND strength of your feet are definitely an important one.
Our foot function can change for many reasons, including pregnancy, injury, shoe-type, and activity level. All of these reasons can also cause a change in our pelvis, pelvic floor, and inner core. For example, after pregnancy women can sometimes wind up with a flattened arch - this leads to different stresses on tissues in the feet - which can also lead to different stresses on the pelvic floor and will affect how your hips and pelvis are set up for movement. Another example is a foot that is stiff - some of those 33 joints may not be moving well - this leads to our body not being able to absorb shock as well during movement, and that shock of impact with the ground will vibrate up through our body and put stress on other joints as well as our deep core and pelvic floor. With all of that being said, a little attention on our feet go a long way! In core and pelvic floor function, sure, but also in our power for activity/exercise, the position of our hips, knees, and ankles, and our tolerance and energy for all the movements we do in an upright position everyday!
We often stuff our feet into shoes which takes away some of their ability to work as they are designed. They get stiff and tight, or weak when in one position all the time, just like any other body part. How many of us strengthen and mobilize our feet? We go out and do functional workouts but put our feet in shoes and take away some of their function.
Look at your feet when you're standing. Do you have a good arch? Are your toes crunched? Are your feet turned out? Can you move your ankles to let your arches drop to the ground and then back up again? Can you lift just your big toes? Can you keep your big toes on the ground and lift just your little toes? Can you spread your toes?
Now I'm not saying to throw away all your shoes, start running barefoot, or go “au naturale” in your life, because the extreme switch is something that leads to pain and problems in itself. Just like anything, a tolerance and endurance needs to be built up over time and listening to your own body and what is best is very important. But just put a little of attention in your feet and see how it can change the way you feel during your activity of choice, and even when you are in shoes. Try being barefoot around your house. Try doing more yoga. Try to improve your strength and balance when barefoot. Or just try having a good stretch session at the end of the day. Pain in the feet, including plantar fascitis, is something that I treat so often in the clinic. And I work foot strengthening into my treatments of many other diagnoses as well. Your feet are your foundation!
Check out this video for some mobilization ideas
Check out this video to see how coordinated you are in your mobility
Check out this video to learn the concept of arch integrity and how to find it
Also, I did an interview with Dr Matt Westheimer of Precision Chiropractic (an amazing chiropractor who adds a lot of health education into his practice) and we discussed the feet. It's always fun when he and I get together! You can view the discussion HERE.
Want to explore more in your own body? Contact me!