What’s the big deal about feet? Yes, those things way down there at the end of your legs. When is the last time you took a moment to really look at them? Most of us don’t give a second thought about our feet, what they’re capable of, or how much we rely on them to get us where we want to go. Even for me, coming out of physio school, I had no idea that feet deserved as much attention as they do.
The catalyst to my mindset shift was when I spent a couple of days going barefoot at a cottage. On day one I took off my shoes and walked on the gravel. It felt like I was walking on spears. It was almost unbearable. I shifted my awareness and kept going with it. I was very mindful and careful and by day two I was walking and almost completely forgetting that I was on gravel. It blew my mind how quickly my body adapted to recalibrating the data my feet were getting from the ground.
This experience reinforced 3 ideas for me about feet and the importance of caring for them.
- Feet are a foundation.
- Feet are a sensor.
- Feet are the key to independence.
Feet as a foundation
When you’re wondering why you should care about your feet, think of constructing a building. If an engineer put plans together for a building, but never planned or even thought about the foundation of the building, we would intuitively know there was a big element missing. However, we don’t always connect the dots and think about our feet as our foundation. Our whole body rests upon our feet. If we are looking at our bodies as a project we are building over time, do we remember to start with the foundation?
Our feet are the primary interaction channel between us and the ground we stand on. It is imperative we focus on this interface if we want to avoid injuries and optimize performance. So often our feet are out of sight, out of mind. When they are covered by shoes it is easy to forget they even exist. But they are an integral element for the structural integrity of our whole body. When we are mindful of them and work on strengthening and caring for them, they will provide us with a firm foundation.
Feet as a sensor
One of the foot’s roles is to gather sensory input about the environment with which you interact. Textures, angles, temperatures, and pressure all get sent to your brain to process and to create movement outputs. The input is essential to improving movement efficiency, stability and hip function. When we cover our feet in a thick cushioned shoe, we are eliminating a lot of that beneficial input. It makes a lot more sense to go barefoot or choose footwear that still allows for some of that sensory input. When we think of our feet as a sensor, the last thing we should want to do is block all of their signals.
Feet as the key to our independence
It is easy to take things for granted until they are taken way from you. If you are suddenly dealing with intense foot pain anytime you get up or move, you realize just how important your feet are for your independence. They are the key to doing your daily activities and moving from point A to point B without assistance. Because this independence is a deeply rooted part of our identity, we do not want to lose it. Caring for your feet by wearing healthy footwear and working on increasing mobility and strength, will help you maintain your independence.
So, what is the big deal about feet? They are your foundation, your sensor, and your key to independence. Thinking of them in these capacities, will remind you of the important roles they play in your life and motivate you to give them the care they deserve!