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Stretch Your Feet: Movement Vitamins Challenge Week 3
Your feet are incredible, complex structures. Each one contains 26 bones and 33 joints, and more than 120 muscles, ligaments, and nerves. Over your lifetime, you’ll probably walk the equivalent of three times around the planet. That’s a lot of loading!
Meanwhile, your feet have likely been jammed into shoes for most of your life – which means they’re seriously unable to do their job right. This can lead to foot pain (an issue around 75% of Americans have experienced at least once in their lives, compared to some 3% of non-shoe wearing cultures). Feet also have a huge impact on the rest of your body. Partly because you’re unlikely to walk if your feet hurt, and partly because your walking mechanics depend (among other things) on how well your feet work.
The gap between our feet and healthy feet is incredibly large – but you can start getting your feet back in shape with this simple stretch.
How The Top Of The Foot Stretch Will Help
This simple – but intense – stretch acts on the toe extensor muscles – the ones that lift your toes up. These muscles are short in most of us, partly because of the design of our footwear.
Check out your shoes for yourself – do the toes curl up a bit from the ground? This very common shoe design feature means the extensor muscles become shortened, which leads to issues like hammertoes and neuromas. In turn this means the arch muscles on the bottom of the foot don’t have much practice getting shorter (you may notice that this stretch causes cramping in your arches – that’s a sign those muscles haven’t been asked to do very much work for a long time)!
This stretch will also impact muscles that reach up the front of the leg. These ones that lift the whole foot up towards the shin in an action called dorsiflexion. Most of us have too much tension in our shin muscles, because they have to fight against our short tight calf muscles to allow us to walk. In order to walk better, you need to deal with the front of the leg as well as the back.
Also, when you stretch your feet, you bring a massive amount of circulation into your tissues. Many foot problems are related to low circulation. Just giving your feet this boost of blood will immediately help the health of your cells.
Another thing I love about this one? It’s a great way to save your feet from flip flops!
The Top Of The Foot Stretch
This Week’s Challenge & Some Handy Tips
Like the calf stretch, the Top Of The Foot Stretch can be done any time, any where. Though it tends to be a bit painful if it’s on a very hard surface, so I recommend picking something a bit squishy.
When you have a chance to practice in front of a mirror, watch out for any bits of you that move out of vertical. Most commonly, you might notice your stretching ankle bow out – if so, rein it back in by putting more weight on your big toe to keep your hip, knee and ankle in line. You might notice that one hip juts away from the stretching side. Do your best to keep your pelvis centred instead. And try not to lean forward!
Let me know how it goes on my Facebook page or in the comments below. You can also play along on Instagram – use the hashtag #movementvitamins and don’t forget to tag me (@movementrevolution) so I can see what you’re up to.
Plus, if you want to get a handy copy of the entire 5 week Movement Vitamins workout for you to keep and reference easily, you can grab it right here!
P.S. Wanna Hear What Katy Bowman Has To Say About Her Prevention Magazine Article?
It’s pretty exciting for us in the Restorative Exercise community to see Katy getting some serious recognition in the mainstream press. In her Episode 57 of the Katy Says podcast, Katy and Dani chat about the article in Prevention, give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the photoshoot, and hear what Katy hopes your takeaways will be. Hint – if you’re doing this Challenge, you’re already 1/3 of the way there!
Petra is a movement educator and personal trainer with a passion for helping people find greater ease, joy and health in their bodies. She believes that better movement can help every body - and she's always happy to chat about it. When she's not teaching, you'll probably find her hanging out on a set of monkey bars.