Getting Acquainted with Your Feet

Maybe you’re wondering why I talk a lot about feet on an ancestral nutrition blog. The parallels of modern foot issues to our way of eating are many: bad recommendations from people who ought to know better, a dominant but wrong paradigm, zero research to support their claims, a multi-billion dollar industry built around it and the “cures” to the problems it causes. If you’re a food activist but not yet a foot activist, you might want to consider it.

I’ve been thinking about my feet a lot lately. Of course, I’ve been dabbling with barefoot running and loving it. In other foot news, I’ve developed a bunion on my right foot and while it’s not painful yet or particularly noticeable, I’m committed to getting rid of it without surgery.

It sounds like this will involve some motivation on my part. Physical therapy type stuff. Ugh. But it’s either that or I continue doing what I’ve been doing and getting madder and madder at the world for selling me on bullshit shoes my entire life. See here for an awesome study—by the Army of all people—about the perils of running shoes.

I’ve been trying to go barefoot more often, which is hard for me because I despise having bits of rubbish on the bottom of my feet. Which means I’m sweeping my floors more often. Cleaner house = 1, Me = 0. (Click here for more on my barefoot adventure.)

And as though she can read my mind, because I’m not convinced she can’t, my yoga teacher Paige has been focusing a lot on yoga feet during class. If you’re not familiar with yoga’s attention to the feet, you are missing out (click here for a good run-down, ignoring all the chakra stuff if you like). Especially if you’re into minimal shoes and barefoot running, yoga exercises are a great complement.

Try this: Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Shift your weight in small circles to find the four corners of your feet. Close your eyes if you think this is too easy. Once you feel you’ve found a solid foundation, root down through your feet. Then lift all your toes off the floor. Lengthen into the balls of your feet, the large toe joint, pressing it strongly into the floor. Now, one by one, stretch and return each toe to the floor. Not that easy, huh? This will show you exactly which parts of your feet are weak and in need of work. You can also incorporate this exercise into anything you do that requires a strong foundation: squats, dead lifts, standing in line at the grocery store, etc., as long as you have footwear that allows for movement.

When I do this exercise in yoga class, I am disheartened by how little my right big toe moves. It’s stuck pointing to the right toward my other toes, beginning to crowd them too. It’s definitely harder to get my Vibram Five Fingers on my right foot than my left because my toes just don’t want to go where they’re supposed to go.

Shoe FAIL. For so many reasons...

I’ve been considering some toe separator apparatus, namely these or these. Has anyone used these or anything similar with any success? My spidey sense tingles when I see stuff like this and I worry about getting sucked into a bunch of gimmicky hoo-ha. Especially because this catalog in particular is full of gimmicky hoo-ha. But if it actually helps? Well, $30 seems a small price to pay to prevent chronic pain and a more expensive surgery.

I think it’s true that we are neglectful of our feet and that a bit of awareness of how we treat them can prevent major problems down the road. I’m guessing we can add bunions, hammertoes, fallen arches, and plantar fasciitis to the long list of diseases of modernity. Check out this photo of an uncontacted tribe in South America and their wide, splayed feet. It makes our Western feet, all squished and pinched, look as abused as the women’s feet in China that were bound. I’m letting my daughter run around barefoot as much as possible so I don’t hinder the development of her feet and when I have her in shoes, I make sure they’re soft-soled and flexible. No bound feet for her! And hopefully her mom’s feet will be happier soon too.





3 Responses to “Getting Acquainted with Your Feet”

  1. I am with you completely! I have had trouble with my feet my whole life. I am working on strengthening them as well. I didn’t follow the links you included in your post, so forgive me if you know about this site already: Katy is an amazing biomechanics/alignment expert and the info on her blog has helped me a lot. She also has dvds and webinars that you can pay for, but there is an amazing amount of info on there for free, especially about feet. They are the foundation of our entire alignment. Her info plus yoga and going barefoot more has really helped me recover from a bad bout of plantar fasciitis. Of course, the podiatrist just gave me orthotics, that I never wore. They were so clunky and I just knew it wasn’t the right way to go. I hope this helps!

  2. Love the post! I go barefoot as much as possible and have my entire life. My grandpa used to grump at me and say “You damn hicks don’t know how to wear shoes” (I’m from WV). Believe me, you get used to the debris that collects on the soles of your feet. Though I fight the floor battles too. I trust the junk on the ground outside more than I do the nasty mystery pebbles on the floor of my apartment. Where does it all come from???

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