Feet For Thought

I just finished my second book in 2017, Food Women and God by Geneen Roth. She talks a lot about the importance of meditation, being present, and self awareness around eating. Am I hungry? Am I full? Asking simple questions to bring our eating habits back to the primordial function of nourishing our bodies appropriately. It’s a devastatingly simple answer to the decades old question that haunts most women at some point during our lives: How do I lose weight?

But I don’t want to talk about weight loss today. I do want to talk about awareness: I want to stress the importance of developing awareness around a part of the body that people take for granted and almost always forget: feet. Yep. I am passionate about feet.

Everything begins with the feet. Feet are our direct relationship to the ground on which we stand. Anomalies in the structure of our feet can cause knee pain, hip pain, back pain… yes, even shoulder pain. And yet, we stuff our feet into shoes that keep our toes bound together, when they are meant to spread out and grab the floor.

I first learned this in a yoga class. The teacher was very specific in how she wanted us to plant our feet. Start with the heel, then lay the outside of your foot on the ground, as if to draw the first line of a triangle. The third point of your tripod is the ball of your foot, which, before placing it on the ground, you want to actively pull in toward your heel, activating the muscles in the arch of the foot. When you finally put weight on your feet, having carefully placed the three points on the floor, you cannot help but feel how they bear the weight and the engagement of the arches of your feet act like trusses in a bridge. When the arch is not activated, the bridge will collapse.

Since learning this, I have been passionate about feet and getting people acquainted with their own. I think most foot issues can be mitigated by simple awareness. When you stand, where is your weight? Your heel, the ball of your foot, do you roll to the outside? As you walk, are you paying attention to how the ground feels beneath you? Are you engaging the arch as your weight glides over your center of gravity? Many people complain of poor balance, but few are even aware of their feet during balancing exercises. The foot provides feedback that your brain needs to make those tiny adjustments to maintain balance.

In short, your foot is the foundation on which the rest of your body stands. Just like anything else in the body, misuse or lack of use can lead to deterioration. Ultimately, most of us have a choice between building a house on quicksand or building a house on a strong foundation. Try at least once a day to spend some time walking around without shoes. Let your feet wake up. Let your toes do the work they were meant to do. Try picking things up off the floor with your toes. Experiment with the feelings of an engaged arch and an arch that is not engaged. Let your feet really hold your weight, instead of cramming them into a shoe all day. No matter what your fitness regimen is, you’ll benefit from a strong awareness of your feet.

If you're feeling adventurous, here's a 30 minute yoga routine just for feet.