Greetings, dear readers
Despite their unique ability to transport their owners wherever they want to go, feet are probably the most under appreciated part of the body. Bed-bound patients and those that use wheelchairs or walking aids may be less likely to overlook the benefits of having fully functioning feet. Similarly, those who spend most of their time on their feet may notice health related changes faster than those with a less active lifestyle. In recent times, most people are required to focus on sedentary tasks in order to earn a living. Due to this, it has become easy to ignore the two body parts that carry people to and from their fairly inactive responsibilities. Unlike most people, feet work well under pressure. What’s their secret? And how can that secret be maintained?
Believe it or not, each foot consists of approximately twenty six bones, twenty five joints and over a hundred muscles, all of which work to bear the weight of the entire body. When in motion, this weight can be distributed unevenly between either foot, depending on its position and relation to the ground. The ankle joint, which fixes the bones of the lower leg to the foot, allows the lower limbs to connect and interact with the ground. Due to specific bone structures and the support offered by ligaments, foot joints are not as easily affected by degenerative diseases, such as osteoarthritis, compared to those found in the hip and knee, unless the foot has been injured beforehand. Problems that involve the bones, muscles, joints and ligaments of the foot can affect most of the body, especially the knees, hips and back.
Due to being under pressure almost constantly and forced to accommodate many different movements, the feet have been assigned two main tasks: stability and mobility. In terms of stability, feet are needed to support the body in multiple positions of varying pressures and form solid platforms which enable the leg to push off from the ground during motion. In addition, the feet must achieve this task in an energy saving and muscle preserving way. Moving onto the task of mobility, the anatomical structure of the foot restricts certain movements of the knee and hip to keep the legs safe from injury. Feet need to be flexible enough to absorb shock during activities and able to adapt to rapid changes when crossing all kinds of surfaces. To do this, the foot utilises two very important movements known as pronation and supination.
When it lands upon the ground, pronation causes a person’s foot to roll inwards and allows their plantar fascia – a strong layer of fibrous tissue found along the inside of their foot – to lengthen. By doing so, the bottom of the foot softens and conforms to the shape of the ground beneath it. In this position, most of an individual’s body weight rests on the inner side of their foot. When pushing off from the surface to take another step, they shift this weight to their toes, causing them to bend upwards. This repositioning, known as supination, shortens the plantar fascia and makes the foot less flexible, propelling the individual in a desired direction. The action of plantar fascia has been linked to the Windlass Mechanism, a process used to explain what happens to the foot during motion.
To reduce the development of foot-related injuries and health conditions, foot specialists known as chiropodists or podiatrists offer a range of applicable advice, such as:
- Wash feet often without soaking them for hours
- Ensure that feet are thoroughly dried after getting wet, placing extra care on the skin between the toes to prevent fungal infections such as Athlete’s foot
- Moisturise feet with cream or oil whilst avoiding between the toes and wear socks to allow the moisturiser to penetrate the skin thoroughly
- Clip toe nails carefully in a straight manner, not rounded, to reduce the risk of developing painful ingrown toe nails
- Try not to wear high heels – which strain muscles in the feet, calves, hips and lower back – or flip flops – which provide little to no support for the arch of your foot – too often
By adhering to the aforementioned advice and paying attention to any changes, big or small, a person can keep their feet – and themselves – healthy and happy.
We hope that this information has benefitted you, our dear readers, and we would love to hear from you. Comments, questions and weekly topic suggestions are always welcomed and greatly appreciated.
Thank you for reading!
The Pure Therapy Team