These are some common phrases we hear as personal trainers:
“I just want to lose this extra fat around my middle.”
“My knee started bothering me about a year ago and I want it to feel better.”
“I have super tight hamstrings; I want to work on my flexibility.”
We don’t often hear many complaints from clients about wanting to make their feet look or feel better. But the feet are the literal basis of our skeletal support system. If a client’s feet aren’t working properly, it can lead to a laundry list of aches and pains, and even injuries.
The feet are the first piece in the kinetic chain and the only part of the human body that is nearly constantly touching the earth. One would think we would spend more time working on these bad boys to keep them functioning properly and supporting our body to the best of their ability. But the poor feet get very little love when it comes to training or recovery. We just use and abuse them day in and day out, without a second thought about what they are doing for us.
Let’s take a minute to look at the feet and understand why they ARE important and how they can make or break a solid training regimen. First, we should point out that our feet are extremely versatile. They need to be both flexible and mobile at certain parts of your gait, then shift to become rigid and stiff to help propel you forward. In other words, when you are landing or stepping down on your foot it needs to be able to move and adjust as a shock-absorber and then remain flexible as it becomes the primary load bearer and adapts to the terrain. And then, just as quickly, as you roll up toward your toes it needs to become stiff and rigid for propulsion.
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Your big toe, or otherwise known as your first Metatarsal Phalange, plays a dominant role in your gait. When you walk or run you need to use the first and second toes to help propel you forward. If you have restricted range of motion in these two joints you cannot achieve, what is known as the windlass mechanism. In the long run, If you have restricted big toe extension it can cause compensatory patterns to form in the knees and hips, thereby increasing the likelihood for injury.
Another important feature of our feet are the intrinsic foot muscles. This group of muscles help stabilize the arch of the foot and assist in standing posture as well as our gait. An easy comparison most active people would understand, would be to say these foot muscles are akin to the “core’ muscles we use to stabilize through our trunk. They are interdependent and allow the foot to adjust to changing terrain and help the foot become rigid when it moves through your gait. And guess what? They are muscles so they can be trained! For some quick and fun ideas on how to train those foot muscles, check out this video.
If a client presents with ankle, knee, or hip pain, we would be remiss to not first take a look at how their feet are functioning. It is common practice to want to treat the joint that hurts, but often times that pain is being caused by the joint above or below the point of pain. And many times, people’s feet are not the first thing they (or even most trainers) would think to examine in these cases.
Another way to help increase foot health, is of course, by supporting the feet. At FitMyFoot, they have designed a new product to do just this. You may be familiar with their insoles and sandals, but the new slide with custom support is sure to be a favorite of athletes. These comfortable slide sandals, use the technology from the custom flipflop sandal but without the toe thong piece to contend with. Simply slip them on and off you go!
Slides have been popular with athletes for decades, but most don’t provide any support. The FitMyFoot slide is perfect for pre and post activity and will provide the support your other slides have been lacking.
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I spoke to Colin Lawson, the lead designer of the slide, and asked him some questions about how they design their footwear at FitMyFoot. He shared with me that they use 3D printing to make the different iterations of the arch support and then test them repeatedly by having people wear them and provide their feedback via survey. They keep improving the design until they feel the product is optimized and ready for mainstream production.
The slide is made of a durable foam with adjustable Velcro straps to allow for differing foot volumes. The arch support is designed to be more supportive toward the heel and then allow for greater range of motion in the forward section of the arch, helping the foot move more naturally through your gait.
As stated above, our feet are supremely important and should be treated as such. If you value good posture, pain-free movement, and general vitality, you need to support your feet. FitMyFoot has given us all yet another way to do just that!
I have both the sandals and the insoles and I can’t wait to get my hands (or should I say feet?) on a pair of the slides.