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feet sneakers

The Feet: The Body’s Foundation

The feet are one of the most overused and taken for granted parts of the body. Since the feet are the foundation for the rest of the body, it would only be logical to begin developing strong, aligned, and full functioning feet from the start when developing a personalized fitness program. The feet should be a priority for developing sound fitness education in order to prevent injuries. Most fitness and sport injuries usually involve the feet. Even when the injury is to the knee, hip or back it can usually be traced back to a misaligned foot pattern.

In the fitness and wellness world there is hardly ever a designated focus on the feet. Since the feet are involved in almost all fitness activities it would make sense that starting with a careful assessment of a person’s feet would be the best place to start. Observing how a person stands, walks, runs, and moves normally can tell you why a person might have a hip, knee, or lower back problem. People who have difficulty with balance almost always have a foot alignment and gait which cannot support the body in movement. Maintaining and working foot function is crucial for insuring continuous mobility, and independence in populations who are handi-capped, have had strokes, who have M.S. or Parkinson’s, or diabetes.

Feet often are good indicators for what is going on in other parts of the body. Abnormalities or pain in the feet can often be a precursor for more serious health conditions. This means that we as wellness practitioners and fitness experts need to pay attention to the feet so much more than is commonly done today.

As wellness/fitness educators it makes sense to understand the anatomy of the feet. It is easy to understand and be able to explain to clients that there are three posterior muscles which go into the plantar foot, three muscles into the dorsal foot. There are three muscles which attach at the calcaneus stabilizing the ankle, heel and lower leg to knee. Both the tibialis posterior and anterior are major stabilizers and the flexors and extensors can only reach their insertions based on the full function of these two muscles. It is not difficult to give people simple and clear understandings of these basic muscles and how they need to be in balance in order for the muscles of the legs to work correctly.

Throughout the body we train muscle groups and chains to function and support the body in movement. These muscles are largely unrestricted by outside forces. Only in the feet are the muscle insertions cut off and thus, restrict the muscles from their full function.

This means that over time the muscle chains will slowly contract upward from these restricted insertions. Wearing shoes to train restricts full function of the feet and legs. This in no way means you should train people barefoot, however, it does mean that part of each training session should be focusing on the feet without shoes worn.

Here are simple facts about the feet:

  • There are 52 bones in your feet which makes up 1/4 of the bones in your body. This means that it pays to focus on the anatomy of the feet and to best understand how to transfer weight through them.
  • Each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles and tendons which are supposed to hold the structure and allow it to move the rest of the body. The more you can analyze a person’s gait and standing position and observe which muscles are not being used properly and where weight is impacting and damaging the foot, the easier it can become to correct the problem and prevent injuries.
  • 75% of all Americans will experience foot problems at some point in their lives. This is epidemic. More people are living active lives and more foot injuries are occurring annually. Starting at the feet is essential for avoiding foot injuries.
  • With a foot injury, without education about how to change the way a person is using his feet, the injury will continue to occur and worsen with time. Using orthotics and other devices does not re-educate the feet. They are temporary fixes. Over time a person will continue to breakdown in the same pattern while weight bearing into the orthotic.
  • When walking the feet receive more pressure into them than the actual weight of a person and when running it can be up to four times the weight of a person. Learning how to use the entire foot when walking allows a transfer of weight throughout the foot. This can mean a person stops walking into the same point repetitively breaking down. Weight needs to be transferred equally through the feet.
  • Only a small percentage of people are actually born with foot problems. People blame foot problems on their genetics. Genetics in the feet as well as in any other structural part of the body can be identified and improved upon to avoid repeating the family pattern.

Bringing the Best Foot Practices into the Medical Fitness Community

It is important to bring the feet into your client’s fitness/wellness program. Learn how to break foot education down so it is mindful and allows a person the ability to understand how to use his/her feet. Here are some pointers:

  • Observe how your client stands, walks, and runs to see the most used foot pattern.
  • Observe where this pattern might be repetitively stressing and impacting the joints of the feet and above in the body.
  • Teach a client how to walk and stand in parallel with feet at hips distance a part.
  • Train people how to transfer their weight from the heels, through the outside of the feet, through the transverse arch from lateral foot to medial, from fifth toe to big toe. The knee must stay in line with the middle foot when the big toe presses down into the floor.
  • Explain what pronation and supination are. Explain the difference between pronation and collapsing the feet medial breaking down the arch.
  • Train clients how to activate and strengthen and stretch their toes.
  • If your client is weight bearing into the medial knee, focus on the feet to realign the knees and avoid a knee injury.
  • The more you bring a foot practice into your program, the better your results will be and the less injuries will be experienced.

Learn more from Yamuna on this topic! Register to watch her webinar, Rebuilding Healthy Foot Function.

Yamuna Zake is a visionary healer dedicated to demystifying the body and providing simple, powerful tools that make lifelong fitness and well-being a reality for everyone. She has developed her deep knowledge of how the body works over forty years, starting at sixteen, when she became a certified hatha yoga instructor. She is the founder of Yamuna, a leading source of education for teachers, therapists, and fitness instructors interested in expanding their knowledge in BodySustainability which can enhance their core expertise, and often lead to a longer term interest in becoming a certified Yamuna instructor.



  • Information taken from Illinois Pediatric Medical association – Simple facts
  • Yamuna Foot Fitness Training Manuals – Bringing best foot Practices

Why Do My Feet Hurt?

Many of you reading this are going to experience a foot problem at some point in your lifetime. Some of you are even going to develop a chronic condition that will introduce your body to a new level of suffering. Ever heard the old saying – “when your feet hurt, you hurt all over”?

The tendency for most of you will be to try to figure out what is wrong, and find a way to alleviate your discomfort. You may self-treat with over the counter products such as insoles, anti-inflammatory or pain medicine. Some of you will seek professional advice from your primary doctor or a specialist. A lot of you will look for answers online, to determine a diagnosis.

After doing this you may think that you’re going to get to the solution you’re after, but in actuality there’s something that should be looked at long before pursuing any of the steps mentioned above. From the 22 years I’ve been taking care of people’s feet, I can tell you that there is a key piece of information many never find. It’s honestly something few know about, but it’s much more likely to be causing your foot troubles.

The fit of your shoes

Yes, the commonly accepted shape of shoes and the method of assigning your feet a number and letter, based upon measurements with the Brannock device, are the most likely reasons for your foot pain. Why? Having your feet measured in this way ignores the natural shape of your feet, and guarantees that you will change this natural shape and inhibit proper function. For many of you this started in infancy, but because of the amazing compensatory abilities of your feet you are likely able to function fairly well in unnatural alignment. For a while, that is.

Picture from CorrectToes

Studies show that about 75% of people in the United States have foot pain at some point in their lives. When that day comes for you to experience your own personal suffering; instead of resorting to the means mentioned above, perform a free and simple in home test to show yourself the most likely reason for your pain.

We perform this test on every patient that comes in to our clinic, and the majority of their feet spread beyond the sock liner. This ensures that their feet are going to be misaligned, because the upper part of the shoe is the same shape as the sock liner.

This goes for you men as well. Even in athletic shoes.

So when your feet begin to hurt – resist the temptation to self-medicate, seek professional advice or try to figure out your diagnosis, until you have checked the fit of your shoes.

Be skeptical of any advice or treatment of your foot pain that does not include aligning your feet naturally. Your feet are designed to be widest at the ends of the toes, so be wary of any professional who ascribes your foot pain to genetics, biomechanics or overuse, but fails to ensure that your feet are aligned as they are naturally designed to be. It is impossible to achieve lifelong foot health and ignore this basic anatomic fact.

Register for Dr. Ray’s upcoming free webinar, Fashion Footwear Does Not Belong In Medicine Or Fitness

Originally printed on the Correct Toes blog. Reprinted with permission.

Dr. Ray McClanahan’s practice, Northwest Foot & Ankle in Portland, Oregon, allows him to care for those who find their highest joy when in motion. In his 18 years as a podiatrist, he has learned that most foot problems can be corrected by restoring natural foot function. He is also the inventor of Correct Toes, silicone toe spacers. His professional goal is to provide quality natural foot health services with an emphasis on sports medicine, preventative and conservative options as well as education on proper footwear.

Dr. McClanahan is an active runner and athlete. In 1999, he finished 14th in the U.S. National Men’s Cross-Country Championships and had a near Olympic Trials qualifying 5,000 meter mark of 13:56 in 2000. He then qualified for the World Duathlon Championships in 2001.”


Footnotes: Your Amazing Feet and How to Keep Them Healthy

It’s pretty amazing that we all don’t suffer with achy feet. Leonardo Da Vinci, artist and engineer, said that “the human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art”. According to The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, each foot has approximately 100 working parts including 26 bones and 33 joints. Twenty-five percent of all the bones in your skeleton reside in your feet, and they work hard. One mile of walking places over 60 tons of stress on each foot. The average person walks approximately 1000 miles per year. Serious runners often log 30 miles per week pounding their feet with forces 3 to 5 times body weight, absorbing 110 tons per foot, for each mile they run. It’s no wonder that 20% of all musculoskeletal related office visits involve the foot and ankle area. Foot problems cost the U.S. approximately 3.5 billion dollars a year. Perhaps Leonardo should have also warned us that artistic and durable do not often go together.

Interestingly, it’s not just the pounding that gets your feet into trouble — it’s often the shoes. Hard to believe but a significant number of individuals are wearing the wrong size shoes. This is in part because most of us do not realize that your shoe size actually changes as an adult. Even though the bones in your feet stop growing in your teens, your feet still expand with age. Your arch drops, leading to a lengthening of your foot and the ligaments weaken resulting in widening or “splaying” especially in the forefoot area. The overall result is a longer, wider foot and the need for shoes or sneakers one or two sizes bigger and with a wider toe box area. Women are particularly susceptible, and I’m not just talking about Sex and the City’s Carrie and her infamous Manolo’s. Most of their lives, they have jammed their poor feet into tight narrow high heeled shoes, almost the modern versions of foot “binding” popularized in China where women’s’ feet were tightly wrapped to keep their feet small and aesthetically pleasing. It’s no wonder that over 70% of women complain of foot pain. One study found that women stopped on the street were much more likely to be in a shoe too tight, than their correct size. This leads to many painful foot conditions like bunions, corns, calluses, neuromas (pinched nerve) and more. I recall a sweet older patient who came into my office and when asked how I could help her, she took off her shoes, pointed to her feet and said “these dogs are barkin”. Of course her shoes were two sizes too small.

Fashion is part of the problem, especially with kids who will often sacrifice proper fit to get a pair that is cool. Also, with the rapid growth spurts, even a shoe that fits well one month may not the next. Parents need to check often. Also, for both kids and especially adult shoewear, cost does not always equate with comfort.

Marketing drives much of what kids and adults want in terms of shoewear. Nike still wants you to be like Mike (Air Jordans started in 1985 and still going srtong!). And in a 1993 basketball sneaker commercial, Charles Barkley was perhaps the most honest when he said “These are my new shoes. They’re good shoes. They won’t make you rich like me, they definitely won’t make you handsome like me. They’ll only make you have shoes like me. That’s it.”

The influence starts quite early. I remember when my daughter’s Barbie Doll had such high fashion (i.e. high heeled, too tight) shoes that I hoped for her sake that Ken was studying to be a podiatrist.

So how do you keep your feet happy and healthy?

Learn to listen to them. If they are “barkin”, first be sure you are in the right footwear. Also, follow these tips:

  • Get both feet measured every time you buy shoes.
  • Shop at the end of the day when your feet tend to be their largest (swelling etc).
  • Be sure there’s plenty of room in the toe box area. Toes should wiggle freely not feel pressured or cramped. There should also be a thumb’s width space between the tip of the toes (especially the longest one) and the end of the shoe.
  • Ladies, try tracing your foot on a piece of paper. Next, place one of your “high fashion” shoes over the tracing. It should be pretty clear why your feet hurt.
  • Never think that you can “break-in” a shoe. The shoe always wins that battle.
  • Always wear the correct footwear designed for your specific sport or activity. All sneaks are not created equal!
  • A good shoemaker can help with minor pressure or hot spots, or a heel area that’s too loose. Remember, I said minor not major adjustments.
  • For more tips, check www.orthoinfo.org and click on the foot icon on the skeleton.

If symptoms persist, see an orthopedic surgeon or podiatrist who can help you better understand and resolve your foot problem and also assure that there is not other medical issues going on since systemic conditions (like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis) can begin with foot related issues. Also, foot pain can be referred from other areas like a pinched nerve in your lower back. Get things checked!

Over the years many have philosophized about the foot. I suspect that it started with their own achy feet. A classic orthopedic surgery textbook about the foot (by Melvin Jahss) notes that “the foot is often neglected unless it is your own; it then becomes the pedestal on which the rest of you stands”. My mother even had a view – “You can’t cheat your feet.” Abraham Lincoln suggested that “a man only needs to be so tall that his feet reach the ground”. Along that line, Oprah Winfrey remarked, “I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear better shoes”. Hopefully they’re the right size.

So, be kind to your feet-use them, but don’t abuse them. It’s hard to keep a smile when your feet are frowning.

Originally published on the Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from Dr. DiNubile.

Nicholas DiNubile, MD is an Orthopedic Surgeon, Sports Medicine Doc, Team Physician & Best Selling Author. He is dedicated to keeping you healthy in body, mind & spirit. Follow him MD on Twitter: twitter.com/drnickUSA