How often do you think about your feet?
Maybe not as much as is warranted considering how important your feet are to the rest of your body.
A strong foundation is crucial to any structure, yet we don’t think much about our feet.
Your feet are your foundation. They support your entire body weight when you stand, walk, run, and jump.
Over the years, I’ve seen orthopedists and physical therapists for a range of issues in my knees, hips, low back, and shoulders. It wasn’t until last year, when I was in California, that I met a PT who thought about checking my feet.
It seems so obvious in hindsight: if you had a house that kept sustaining damage in various places, you’d likely check the foundation. Yet nobody else had thought to check my feet — or, more accurately, to check how I was using my feet.
He put me through a range of mobility tests while I was barefoot.
It turns out that I didn’t really know how to use my feet very well.
Apparently I’m not alone. Most of us don’t learn how to use our feet well because we stuff them into shoes before we even learn how to walk. We rely on orthotics or the structure of sneakers to correct our imbalances, rather than strengthening the muscles of our feet.
This results in compensatory muscle patterns and movement dysfunctions up the chain.
Strengthening my feet has become an important part of my physical retraining work. Learning how to move my toes independently of each other (like you would move your fingers) is a big deal. And small gains are big wins. This is tedious work, and it’s not easy.
Our feet are our physical foundation. Our roots.
Beyond the Physical Body
The implications of our foot health extend beyond the physical body.
One day when working on squats I asked my PT when my hips would relax, allowing me to squat deeper. He said my hips would open when my feet got stronger, when my nervous system could trust my feet and ankles to support me.
Of course. This is how it works in the energetic body too.
In the Chakra system, the body’s energetic system, feet and legs are part of the first chakra, also known as the Root Chakra. Your root chakra relates to survival: overall physical health, financial security, food, water and shelter. When these aren’t in place, higher-level functions, such as creativity, connection, and expression, don’t happen.
Stability in the root chakra opens our portals of creativity, willpower, connection, expression, vision, and insight.
The first function of your nervous system is safety. When you’re unable to ground through your feet, your nervous system directs all energy to getting to safety. This doesn’t leave much bandwidth for planning, creative work, and focus.
Strengthening your feet can strengthen your focus.
Your best work starts with setting a good foundation.