Are Your Feet Listening?

Don’t be silly our feet don’t have ears – what a strange question? But your feet are extremely sensitive and ultimately very important to help control our balance, posture and pelvic stability. They send a huge amount of sensory information to the Central nervous system allowing us to make instant and unconscious adjustments to our body’s alignment.

If we react to challenges on our balance by stiffening our muscles below the knee and gripping with the foot or wobbling excessively we will have a rigid foot, which, can no longer listen to the floor. Excessive muscle activity around the foot and ankle usually indicates underactive gluteal muscles which influence our propulsive power. Because of the foots relationship with the gluteal group the rigid foot is associated with groin, pelvis and lower back problems, but can also be associated with overuse injuries such as shin splints and achilles tendinopathy.

The mobility of our foot assists with rotation of the lower leg which is vital for the normal locking and unlocking mechanism required at the knee when walking and if this rotation is reduced it will affect your walking and in turn can create over-activity in other muscles such as the hamstrings to compensate.

What Can We Do To Make Our Feet Listen?

First we need to find out if our feet are listening!

Try standing on one leg – look at your foot. Does it look relaxed or are the toes gripping or curling or can you see the tendons of the foot. Are you making fine adjustments or is your foot rocking from side to side or are you wobbling alot. If you have found this hard or notice any of the above then you don’t have a good relaxed listening foot. You may be surprised that your balance and gluteal activation can improve quickly when you improve your foot mobility and control.

Listening Foot Exercise:
Sit on a chair with both feet on the floor and bare feet. Explore shifting the pressure from one part of your sole to another. Now place your hands around the top of your lower leg and just below the knee to help you sense the motion. Your knee should remain completely still and use as little muscle effort as possible to practice the exercise. Slowly move the pressure towards the outside of your foot while keeping ALL the toes relaxed and in contact with the ground. You should find your lower leg rotates with this movement. Move the pressure back across your foot the other way and feel the lower leg rotate the opposite way. The movement should be smooth and slow with as minimal muscle tension as possible. Practice until you can freely move the pressure from the outer to inner portion of the foot KEEEPING all toes relaxed and in contact with the floor. Repeat often throughout the day.

PROGRESSION: once you can do the Listening foot exercise try these progressions
– Practice balance activities moving the free leg in all directions.
– Practice softly pulsing the knee with bending and straightening movements whilst balancing.
– Practice balance with eyes closed.

REF: Elphinstone, J. (2013) Stability, Sport and Performance Movement