A clever bloke once said “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art” I think my old mate Leo (Da Vinci of course) may have been onto something. That carefully engineered, artful masterpiece you slip into a pair of Hush Puppies or Manolo Blahniks each morning is actually thirty-three joints, twenty-six bones and twenty-four useful muscles. With all that going on beneath the surface, don’t you think it’s time you gave your forgotten feet more than a passing thought?
Your feet really were made for walking – and without the fancy sports shoes and the luxury of footpaths. Years ago our feet were expected to cover miles of rough terrain with little more than a thickened layer of skin for protection. Feet were created to undergo strain and just like any other body part, they adapt to their environment and become more resilient to survive. Our feet have softened up with the constant wearing of shoes to the point where stepping on a pebble or bindi can bring a tear to the eye. But travel to many third world countries and you’ll see unprotected, toughened feet in action. In fact, less than fifty years ago Abebe Bikila from Ethiopia ran barefoot along cobblestone roads to win marathon gold in the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
So, constantly pounding the pavement cooped up in leather is weakening your tootsies on a daily basis. Neglected, poorly performing feet can hinder the function of your entire body. Knees can be unduly strained, hip movement can be thrown askew and backs can suffer. An exercise program incorporating a foot and ankle focus will put a spring back into your step.
Next week I’ll take you through some specific ankle and foot exercises that you can incorporate into your program but in the meantime read on for a few easy ways you can battle harden your tootsies.
Get off the beaten track
Aussies love to walk and this is one of the simplest, easiest ways to strengthen your feet and ankles. Whenever possible you need to get off the footpath and onto the road less traveled. Suburban footpaths are often edged by grass so if you’re going for a walk or a run, stick to these more uneven surfaces – if it looks safe to do so. Your ankles will have to work that little bit harder and will consequently become stronger. You’ll find by running or walking on less consistent surfaces you’ll greatly reduce the chances of future ankle strains and sprains. Some athletic coaches even get their athletes to run barefoot to further strengthen feet. Why not kick your shoes off once a week and have a walk or run in the sand or grass – again if this is safe to do so.