Over the past couple of weeks, I talked about What is Posture - the fundamental need for stabilization to provide healthy movement; and You Cannot Control Your Posture - postural control does not come from conscious thought. This brings up an obvious question. How do you train postural control? The answer is by integrating a full body, holistic approach to health and fitness. The program I use with my clients involves deep tissue massage therapy with a focus on the fascial system, self-massage using a foam roller, flexibility training, corrective exercise, functional strength training, and barefoot or minimalist walking and running. In today’s post, I will take you through the first steps (pun intended) of this process.
It Starts With the Feet
The feet are your connection to the Earth. They are the foundation of your posture and the platform from which you move. In Architecture, the foundation of a building provides a base of stabilization that supports the entire structure. A weak foundation leads to collapse. The same is true for your feet, with a very significant difference… you move! Your feet have the challenging responsibility of providing strength and stability while maintaining flexibility and mobility to aid in the movement of the entire body structure. Not a simple task!
The Feet are your Foundation
With a strong healthy posture, the body aligns over the feet. This is what provides the incredible stability from which healthy movement is derived. Just like the foundation of a building must be stable to support walls and a roof, the feet must be stable to support the legs, torso, spine and head. If your feet are weak, they are unstable. This is equivalent to building a house upon a bed of sand. The feet become misaligned and the ankles, knees, hips, back, and shoulders follow. Misalignment creates dysfunctional movement which causes pain and injury. A healthy foot is fundamental to good posture.
How Do We Get There?
What should you do if your goal is healthy feet and good posture? Focus on developing strength, stability and mobility while staying grounded and connected to the Earth. A great way to do this is to take your shoes off. You can read more on why I am an advocate of making the transition to barefoot or minimalist footwear in Free Your Feet, and how shoes affect running and walking gait patterns. But before you toss your shoes and fully convert to a barefoot lifestyle there is an important step you must take. It is vital that you rebuild the strength and stabilization of the muscles of your lower leg and feet – they are likely weak from decades of neglect.
Remember: the feet you walk on are the very foundation of your posture. The healthier your foot care is the better your body will move and feel. Below are exercises to build strength, balance and stability in your feet and lower legs.
The following exercises will help strengthen the intrinsic muscles of your foot and leg, challenge postural muscles, and train your foot and lower leg to stabilize providing healthy movement for your entire body. I recommend doing these exercises two to three times a week for eight to twelve weeks. As your foot gets stronger you can continue to perform these exercises for maintenance on a weekly basis.
By performing self-myofascial release techniques using a foam roller or ball, you can reduce trigger points, decrease tissue tension, and break down scar tissue adhesions in injured myofascial tissue (muscle and fascia) formed by a combination of acute trauma, poor posture, repetitive movement, over-training, or inadequate sleep. The goal of self-myofascial release is to speed up the healing and recovery process, reduce pain, improve joint range of motion, balance the body, and prevent injury.