I’ve read thousands of articles over the years when it comes to “self-improvement,” as I’m sure you have too. The majority of those articles talk about change coming from within, starting with your mindset and then re-evaluating your habits, changing nutritional patterns, and other ideas along that path. I completely agree with those ideas, but, if I could put my foot down for just a minute…
Take a moment right now and look down at the floor. What do you notice? Not the carpet or random things strewn about, but instead, the things that are literally grounding you to the surface of our planet. Yep, I’m talking about your feet! Change can also begin from the feet up.
The list of things you do for self-care might not have your feet at the top. Sure, things like getting a pedicure, a foot soak in luxurious lavender salts, or even a stone scrub mid-bubble bath are all wonderful, but I’m referring to a deeper kind of care that isn’t surface level. There are muscles in your feet that need extra consideration and attention. According to the National Library of Medicine, Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Foot Muscles by Ryan K. Card; Bruno Bordoni, there are 29 muscles associated with the human foot. Ten muscles start outside of the foot connecting the ankle joint, and the other nineteen are referred to as intrinsic muscles that operate specifically within the foot. The muscles of the foot influence the posture and the shape of our feet, as well as provide the ability to transmit muscle tension within the whole body system.
While you likely go days or weeks without any kind of additional thought to your feet other than, “man, I need to get my nails done,” recognizing that your feet are the literal foundation allowing you to stand, function, and move throughout life will be the first step to enhancing your quality of, well, everything!
So, how can you help show your feet a little more TLC? Here are four ways to start.
- ANKLE ROLLS – By rolling out your ankles, you will improve your range of motion and joint mobility. So the next time you trip while taking the dog out for a walk, you’ll likely be able to catch yourself and avoid a sprained ankle. These can be done while seated or lying down. Start by turning your ankle around slowly in a circle to the left, repeat for 15 – 20 seconds, then change direction. Make sure you’re keeping the movements small and don’t go too quickly. Slow and steady produces the best benefits.
- DRAW THE A, B, C’s – Just like your ankle rolls, but more advanced. By working to create the different letters, your joints and ligaments will be challenged by moving in directions that aren’t so common. This will improve the strength in your feet and give your brain a boost.
- THE POINT AND FLEX – Just like the “bend and snap,” but for your toes! This is a wonderful way to help feet that are tight. By working to point and flex, you will improve flexibility and avoid injury and foot pain like plantar fasciitis. These can also be done while seated or lying down. Start by pulling your heel back by engaging your calve muscle and pull toes upright, so your foot is in the flexed position (imagine a brick is easily able to be taped onto the sole of your foot.) Hold for 10 – 15 seconds, then go into the point by extending your big toe down and lengthening out the rest of your foot as it follows that forward stretch, allowing the arch of your foot to pull up. Repeat on the other leg. You can do a few rounds of these, but be sure to listen to your body and scale back the time holding these in either position if anything feels too intense.
- WALKING – Walking increases the muscle contraction in your legs and will improve the blood flow in your limbs and throughout your body. It also improves your cardiovascular fitness level, decreases levels of stress, and lowers blood pressure.
Hopefully, by incorporating some of these little things into your day, you will ease swollen feet, improve your blood circulation, and even strengthen smaller muscles you didn’t know existed. Keep your feet happy and healthy not just to make a positive impact on your soul, but really truly, to help your soles!