Aloha, everyone and Happy Holidays!

Let’s talk about feet! Did you know? They are the source and solution to a lot of your chronic pains, sports injuries, and more.

Our feet are our dynamic base. They simultaneously: 1) provide structural support for the entire body; 2) disperse the forces of gravity from above and below (gravity pulls us down and the ground provides equal force, whether we are standing still or moving); and 3) provide us with mobility.

When we have feet that are well-conditioned to be strong, flexible, and mobile, AND stand as centered as we can in gravity upon those feet, then the structures above take on much less wear and tear (especially those knees. Oh, and the hips. Ah yes, and even the low back. Even the neck? Yes, indeed. Well, we had better add in the shoulders and arms).

Can we work ourselves to a better foundation? Yes, we can. As long as we have Breath, yes we can. We all have different sets of circumstances and different levels of what we will achieve — and with that in mind, we can improve our sense of well-being through our feet. So it’s okay if we aren’t all going to be master acrobats or win the Olympic Marathon. It’s okay even if we are missing a foot (I’ve worked with that too). How can I optimize my well being, starting today? Let’s have a good look at the feet and see where I can start improving…

We are quite often using our feet in less-than-ideal ways, which then creates pain and strain in other places. Wearing shoes, for example, often makes us unable to use them to the fullest. As a prime example, those lovely high heels leave us limping by the end of the evening.

But that’s not all. Most any shoe makes us use our toes less. And I’ve seen so many workout videos on social media, such as plyometrics in athletic shoes. The problem with that is, you’re not able to fully use your feet and lower leg muscles, and therefore coordinate with your hip and upper leg muscles, to do that work. The knees take up a lot of impact.

As for runners and other athletes who need to wear shoes for your chosen sport: I recommend that you take a well-worn pair and look closely at the way that you have been wearing the shoes out. Both of them. This will give you loads of information, as to what is happening, and how you can improve.

Should I wear an insert for my shoe, then? Well…. I have a few precautions about that. If you have “flat feet” and add arch supports; or if you get a customized orthotic insert to keep your foot from rolling in/out, this still hasn’t trained your foot and lower leg muscles to support your structure and coordinated movement, so it won’t necessarily make you less prone to injury or pain. And in the case of those of us who present a leg that seems to be “longer” than the other, a lifted hip (i.e. you are presenting with Scoliosis), putting in one shoe lift to make the hips look more “even” actually causes more problems.

It’s not practical to go without shoes much of the time, so there is an approach. It’s foot re-conditioning. And this also is great for those of us whose athletic endeavors are barefoot, or wearing non-slip socks.

As for bare feet: Recently I started a conversation on Facebook after looking at a social media post from a local fitness studio, touting a truly dysfunctional “pointe foot” as a model to emulate in an adult Barre class that’s offered to non-dancers. Ugh! The dancers in that thread agreed that this wasn’t even a functional pointe foot for dance. The squished toes made me cringe. To see this conversation, goto:

What can I say about the pointe foot? It’s something that only serious dancers should consider, under supervised guidance by a really good teacher, and following established protocols. Usually this training happens from a very young age and isn’t likely to develop if we are getting into dance as adults (did you know? Many dancers never use the pointe foot.

Under no circumstance should an adult Barre class for non-dancers be using this pointe foot — yet I have attended a class taught by someone who was telling everyone to go up to the very tips of the toes. And we were doing a photoshoot for part of the class, so she wanted us up up up on the tips of the toes. I steadfastly refused to do it, knowing that my many-times-sprained right ankle would have a fit over it; that ankle would tell my knee and hip to take on some strain, or tell my body to shift everything to the left — and it would all come crashing down. Thanks, I’ll go onto the ball of my foot where you can actually find stability. Even then, I’ve got a lot of reservations about Barre classes in general, but that’s another story.

As for Pilates: I cringe when I see any Pilates teacher placing one lift under a person’s foot or shortening one strap/rope when using the Reformer… it’s dysfunctional. Period. And there are much better ways of approaching uneven legs/hips. Foot conditioning is part of the process.

Foot re-conditioning is fairly simple. This is something I do with clients, and I’m looking at ways of bringing this to a wider audience. You don’t have to have expensive Pilates equipment, you can use some very inexpensive things that are portable. And foot conditioning will assist you in your chosen sport, especially if it requires running or jumping. Or even just balancing on one leg. Please do comment to my website if you’d like to know more!

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Lahela Hekekia

I was diagnosed with Scoliosis at age 10 and started having chronic pain at age 19. During stressful times like exams, I was downing handfuls of Ibuprofen and getting massages, just to survive. And for years experienced very one-sided sports injuries. Right hip, right knee, right ankle, right foot. Left shoulder. It all makes sense now.
I found Pilates in my 30s. In about two years of daily practice, I changed my spine. Dr. Chip Abbadessa looked at the xray in 2009 and said, “Are you telling me that you used to have Scoliosis? Look at this…” Thanks, Dr. Chip! And yes, I got close to an inch “taller.”
I no longer have those constant headaches and pinching pain between the shoulder blades -- and no longer floored by spasms in the low back that would happen with seemingly no warning. My weight didn’t really change, but I feel much lighter on my feet, can reach higher, and haven’t been this flexible since middle school. (Keep in mind, I became a long distance runner in middle school, and running tends to decrease flexibility. I also got lazy about stretching at age 18). I felt “old” at 25 and feel “young” and bouncy now, at 47. OMG. I’m 47. Well my goal is to be bouncy at 97.
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