Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why are the Feet and Ankles so important?

Just turn on the TV these days and you will see some type of commercial selling shoes or products that claim to do everything from relieve pain to tighten your butt. I'm not going to get into what may or may not be effective, but this highlights the fact that the feet and ankles are getting some good attention these days.

The feet and ankles, being our platform and the base of our support, have a huge influence on our body and the movement system within it. The foot makes the first contact to the ground, thus dictating how and where this force will be sent. In theory the foot is an amazing force transducer - at least when it is working correctly! Yet today's world of sedentary occupations and repetitive improper movements have led to any array of muscular-skeletal problems that can travel way beyond the foot and ankle themselves.

Common issues directly related to foot and ankle dysfunctions are, but not limited, to Low Back Pain, SI Joint Pain, Sciatica and Knee Pain.
Two of the most common dysfunctions with the foot and ankle complex are external rotation of the foot and ankle (foot turns out) when moving or squatting and eversion of the foot and ankle (Foot flattens) when moving or squatting. Both of these dysfunctions can often be corrected with exercise and flexibility techniques.

If you are not sure if you have eversion and external rotation just perform a squat test.

Overhead Squat Test:
1.) Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and pointing straight ahead
2.) Put your arms up and over your shoulders
3.) Slowly squat down as though you are going to sit into a chair
4.) Head back up to the starting position when your knees go just beyond 90 degrees.
5.) Observe what happens in your feet.

- If your feet turned out or flattened then you where positive for external rotation and eversion.

This is something that you do not want to ignore. If you do not have pain now, you will eventually have pain in the knee or lower back. Simple tasks like walking may not show up as a pain symptom of these dysfunctions. Yet do something more intense like a hike or workout and you might notice some issues with your knees, hips or low back. An old Exercise Science professor of mine used to say, " It is not a matter of if an injury will happen, but when".

There are many stretches and self massage techniques that can help with these dysfunctions, yet for now I will list three that you can easily use:

1.) Foam Roll the outer side of your calf:

2.) Foam Roll the outside of your shin:

3.) Stretch your calf while rotating the knee in and over the big toe:

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