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Walking around Tokyo takes its toll. Recently I have noticed a lot of people with ankle and knee problems also complaining about posture and bone spurs on the bottom of their feet. I often notice that these patients are not equally spreading the weight between the bones in their feet when they stand and walk. Also, their lifestyle has left their bodies soft and flabby, mine included! So this year I decided that my resolution was to find my perfect health and in turn, help my patients due the same. That is why I have started to put posture training into my treatment.
To truly improve posture it is of the utmost importance that you have awareness about how you balance your body, the muscles in your stomach and even how you breathe. Even the tilt of your head can affect your posture. The most important part of the equation is the feet because they take the impact and weight of each step. They are also the best indicator as to how the weight is distributed. This is because the way the soles of our shoes wear down is a direct indicator to how you hold your balance. To understand this you first need to understand the anatomy of your feet and where the weight should be placed when you are standing in a neutral position.
Human feet were developed over thousands of years. They are actually over engineered for today’s paved roads and barrier free cities. The evolved as the key link between us and the rough terrain that we needed to walk on. As the “…only true biped mammals on the planet humans are also the least stable of creatures, possessing the smallest base of support, the highest center of gravity and (proportionately) the heaviest brain balancing atop it all.” – (Kaminoff, 2007)
Muscles and bones of the foot, all 28 of them, combine to lift, balance and move the body. When the muscles weaken or are not properly used it can cause problems for other areas of the foot and will inevitably change the alignment of the entire body. For example: plantar fasciitis and heel spurs are caused when the plantar fascia weakens. The muscle is the most superficial layer of support for the foot. So when it weakens is puts more pressure on the plantar fascia creating plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. – (Kaminoff, 2007)
Modern science is not the first medical bodies of thought to recognize the importance of our feet. In fact, one of the main and most basic yoga stances, Tadasana, or Mountain Pose, was created for the sole purpose of correctly using and balancing on the feet while keeping the body in perfect alignment.
So what can you understand about your posture and your balance by looking at your feet? And even more importantly, why does it even matter?
Learning how to read your shoes is something that many runners are probably already familiar with. A quick search online will bring up thousands of sights that even teach people how to read them. Lets start from the beginning:
“Humans walk using a double pendulum. During forward motion, the leg that leaves the ground swings forward from the hip. This sweep is the first pendulum. Then the leg strikes the ground with the heel and rolls through to the toe in a motion described as an inverted pendulum. The motion of the two legs is coordinated so that one foot or the other is always in contact with the ground…. the center of mass of the body in walking the body “vaults” over the leg on the ground, raising the center of mass to its highest point as the leg passes the vertical, and dropping it to the lowest as the legs are spread apart. Essentially kinetic energy of forward motion is constantly being traded for a rise in potential energy.”
During this process shoes wear more in the places that have a higher rate of contact with the ground. Also the weight ratio and how the foot continues the process of movement highly affect the areas of wear and tear. For example: if the outer edge of your heel is always wearing down that means that you are putting the bulk of your weight on the outer edge of your heel instead of the ball of your foot when you take a step. This will can create a bow legged posture and eventually lead to pain in the knees, an increase in the outer thigh muscles and a decrease in the inner thigh muscles. In turn, this is going to lead to a slumped back and shoulders and a weak stomach. This is the common posture for older women and is very uncomfortable.
Walking around Tokyo takes its toll and understanding and evaluating your posture in everyday life is essential to a healthy and happy future. Correct posture puts your body in alignment with itself. This is the best way to get rid of chronic pain. It is also the key to a healthy digestive, circulatory and in turn immune system. In my next blog I am going to go over some very simple ways to check your posture and strengthen it in every day life. So stay tuned!
Heather Maya Suzuki