Feet are often the last part of our body that we take care of, indeed many people claim to ‘hate’ their feet – ‘they’re ugly’!!! Regardless of their subjective beauty (!) our feet do amazing things for us and are built to do so in an incredible way.
Each foot contains 26 bones (that’s 25% of the entire body’s bones!!), 33 joints (evolved since we became bipeds!), 107 ligaments (holding the bones together) and at least 19 muscles and tendons that attach into and around the foot.
19 of the 26 bones are the toes – ie the phalanges and the metatarsals in the mid and forefoot. The remaining 7 include the talus, calcanium, 3 x cuniform, navicular, cuboid.
When we run, there is a vertical force of approximately 2.5x our body weight transmitted through the body from foot strike. If you land on your heel this force is dissipated through just 7 bones, whereas forefoot strike means 19 bones can dissipate this force on impact, but don’t forget Newtons Law that there is also an equal and opposite reaction force to the foot striking the ground up through your leg and foot – called ground force reaction (ref www.run3d.co.uk). Think of the stress this places on all of those joints not just in the feet but up the body, when a runner completes a mile in approximately 2000 foot strikes; multiply that by 26.2 for a marathon and that’s after the many many miles of training that have gone before!!!
The feet also cleverly have 'springs'; our 3 arches are designed to absorb force shaped by the foot bones creating the arch, held in the arch shape by taut ligaments, plus the tendons of muscles. The arches are the:
Lateral Longitudinal arch from heel to outside little toe base
Medial Lonitundinal arch – from heel to inside of foot or base of big toe
Transverse arches – across the cuniform bones, and also across from little toe base to big toe base.
Our weight in standing would flatten the arches were it not for the soft tissue structures supporting them. Flat feet occur when someone has ‘fallen arches’ which can be caused by several factors including dysfunction of the tibialis posterior tendon which connects from your lower leg along your ankle to the middle of the arch.
We ask a lot of our feet and its no wonder that if we don’t take care of them in terms of flexibility, alignment and posture in running style and correct shoewear all manner of problems can begin in the feet, or further up the body at any junction where the repeated impact force over 52400 strides takes its toll. Try to mitigate injuries that can occur through force and repetition. Get shoes properly fitted. Replace them when advised to by the specialist manufacturer in terms of mileage or 'read' the bottom of your shoes to see where the tred is worn (a bit like car tyres).
Massage is very beneficial in helping to soften, mobilise and increase flexibility of the feet. It is particularly useful to massage the balls of the feet after running which take the load in forefott running over many miles, and also to combat plantafascialistis. Don’t forget the muscle attachments which run up from the foot and ankle into the lower limb and connect higher also need to be treated. Indeed dysfunction of lower limb biomechanics and soft tissue disfunction can cause problems higher up the body into the knee, hips, back and upwards. Likewise dysfunction and imbalance in the hips can cause problems to the lower body - poor stability can cause knees to dip in or out when running which can damage the kneesand surrounding structures and downwards into the lower limb, ankle and foot. Imbalance at the pelvis can also cause problems up the body even into the shoulder and neck so it’s always important to look at the body as a whole as opposed to one area in isolation where the pain appears to initiate. It's all connected.