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Want to Feel More Balanced? Start with Your Feet!

Did you know that 25% of your bones and muscles are located below the ankle? And yet our feet tend to be one of the most overlooked parts of our body, at least as far as proactive care goes. No one thinks about their feet until there’s a problem.

Due to the volume of joints and muscles in the feet, stiffness in this area of the body is one of the biggest contributors to balance problems. Your feet play a major role in the intricate systems that keep you balanced. The more rigid your feet, the more difficult it is to balance. 

One of the best places you can start to improve your balance is to improve the mobility of your feet. The more impact from the environment your feet absorb, the less work the rest of your body has to do to keep you balanced. 

The first step to better foot mobility is to consider how you treat your feet daily. What kind of shoes do you wear? How much time do you spend with shoes off? How are your toes moving?

Do you have foot pain? Are there calluses, and if so, where? All of these questions can start to give you clues about how your feet move.

Maintaining healthy, happy feet for better balance is easy to do with just a few simple tools you already have in your home, and a few minutes per day.

Follow the steps below to return the suppleness to your feet for a quick impact on your balance:

Stop Wearing Heels, Rigid Shoes, or Shoes with a Pointy Toe 

Shoes that tighten your calves don’t allow the bones of your feet to move, and shoes that cram all the toes together are a recipe for future foot and balance issues. Spend most of your time in shoes that are flat, flexible, and have a wide toe box to allow your feet to experience a range of natural movement. 

Spend More Time at Home Barefoot 

Shoes act as a cast to your feet, immobilizing them and preventing the muscles of the foot from working on their own.

Allowing yourself to walk barefoot, even for short amounts of time, provides the muscles of your feet an opportunity to strengthen. If you tend to wear shoes at home, start this process gradually to allow your feet to adapt. 

Practice Spreading Your Toes Apart and Lifting Them Individually Every Day 

You might be surprised to hear your feet should have the same dexterity as your hands! You heard that right. Shoes have done to our feet what a lifetime of wearing mittens would do to your hands.

Start to wake the muscles of the feet up and improve your dexterity by practicing your toe mobility. The muscles that control the toes also strengthen the arch of the foot, so this is important to focus on if you’ve been told you are “flat-footed” or have a collapsed arch. 

Walk on a Variety of Surfaces and Textures 

Walking over stones, grass, or on tile floor are all different experiences for the joints and muscles of your feet. Walking uphill, downhill, or over flat surfaces are all different experiences as well. Expose your feet to as many different experiences as possible, with or without shoes to allow for maximal strengthening. 

It’s helpful to practice walking on different textures in conjunction with spreading and lifting your toes. Gaining mobility is a process that not just improves your flexibility, but also strengthens your control of it. 

Taking these smalls steps to improve the health of your feet impacts your overall health in a positive way. After all, you need a healthy foundation to build healthy movement habits.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What can you do today to start to think more about the health of your feet? Can you think of any habits that inhibit your balance? Please share in the comments below.

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Great article. I discovered Essentrics aka Aging Backwards which focusses on using ALL muscles in our bodies. The classes (in-person or video streaming) are amazing for improving balance, strength training (using your own body weight), and for lengthening and toning your muscles. I love the movements – it’s a slower paced, low impact form of exercise and is extremely beneficial to one’s muscles, connective tissue and brain. The music is beautiful, the movements are beautiful and my body, at 65, is responding. Miranda Esmonde-White is the founder of this “new” form of movement/exercise – she was with the Canada National Ballet and has designed this over a period of at least 25 years. The instructors train for several years and do extensive anatomy and physiology instruction. I wish I had discovered this years ago.

The Author

Brittany Denis, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist, movement coach, and educator empowering clients through the aging process with mindful movement. She inspires all adults to bring a growth mindset to aging both in her movement studio and online.

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