Starting on the path to developing healthy feet can feel overwhelming at times. With so many aspects of foot care, where do you start? Nick St. Louis of The Foot Collective has boiled it down to three simple steps: protect, correct, and develop. When foot care is approached through this lens, the path is easy and simple!
Before you try to correct any foot issues, ask yourself, what can I do to prevent these problems in the first place? The only role of footwear should be to protect your foot from outward damage from sharp rocks, glass, extreme temperatures, etc. But, you also need to protect your foot from conventional or fashion footwear. Avoid shoes that deform or damage your foot, such as shoes that are narrow, ramped, thick-soled or stiff. These shoe qualities will all negatively affect your feet over time. So, the most important step to having pain-free, resilient feet that support your body is to choose appropriate footwear.
Correcting the foot means resetting tight tissues and creating mobility. There are a number of exercises that can accomplish this. For instance, releasing your foot by rolling it over a lacrosse ball, doing beam work or correcting your toe alignment with toe spreaders. These exercises act as “supplements” until you’ve got a baseline of mobility back. These supplements will help you on your path to going barefoot or wearing barefoot shoes.
Also, this step means correcting ankle dysfunction, because a locked up ankle creates hypermobility at the foot. Likewise, another aspect is correcting hip mobility and function. The hip is what determines your ability to orient the foot in a good position. So, if you take care of your foot, but not your ankle or hip, you’re missing something. These joints are all a part of the same kinetic chain that affects foot health.
Lastly, we want to conduct a lifelong experiment to develop a more robust foot. This process will be ongoing. As your own scientist you will discover what exercises and methods work best for you and your feet. And, by being barefoot and adding more load to the feet, you will build up resilience of the surface of the feet and within the muscles of the feet. So, develop by taking on a lifelong goal of using your feet more and gaining strength and resilience over time.
So, just remember: protect, correct, develop. These simple elements are all you need to work on in order to have healthy, functional feet. Now go out there and put it into action!