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Feldenkrais Method

Foot Care

An Overview

Having balanced, well functioning feet is key to good overall skeletal support from head to toe. All the links in the kinetic chain are affected by what is going on at the top neck joint and at the feet.

We can enhance our skeletal support or collapse it. So what does this have to do with arches? One's height can be lowered or raised by one's arches. A flat arch in one foot can functionally shorten that leg by as much as1/4"! We can all learn to use our feet in better coordination with our whole body whether we are born with high arches or low arches.

People born with flat feet are born without the "spring ligament" which supports the main bone of the middle the longitudinal arch. Many other short small muscles of the feet support our arches as well as larger muscles with long tendons that originate in the calf and insert in the foot. Ligaments give strength statically and muscles give strength dynamically.

With age and sedentary lifestyle many people's arches get lower over time. There are many things a person can do to bolster their foot strength and avoid deforming foot troubles as they age.

Strategies for caring for your feet

Buy good shoes

  • Consider wearing supportive shoes especially when you are on your feet walking, standing, running, jumping, dancing more than 10 minutes. If you sit for long periods of time at a desk, consider having a "slipper pair" for comfort and a supportive pair for being on your feet. Summertime tempts us to walk in poorly supported shoes: flip-flops, sandals etc...don't give in. Most sandals do not support feet well enough for long distances and touring.
  • Wearing absorbent socks and lace up shoes gives the most support. Birkenstock sandals give some support but lace-up shoes the most. Hey, check out, they have Keen brand lace up sandals. Depending on how much support you need you've got a range of choices.
  • Lace-up shoes are preferred but all shoes should have adequate bend at the ball of the foot (toe break). Some shoes are so rigid that they do not allow normal bend. I suggest bending the shoe with your hands to check. It should offer resistance yet bend. Yes, some soles will get more flexible with wear, but some don't. This is particularly true with some hiking boots and clogs.
  • For Correct Fit, a good shoe salesperson ensures that:
    1. There is room between the front of the shoes and the tips of your toes
    2. The bend of your ball should be at the bend of the shoe; (i.e. do not buy larger length shoes in an attempt to get a wider fit, it will place the toe break too far forwards)
    3. The instep of the shoe hugs the contour of your arch
    4. When laced, the edges of the laced leather can be brought closer as the shoe stretches with wear
    5. The inner heel counter doesn't rub your ankle
    6. There is sufficient width to accommodate your foot and your orthotic if you use one, so bring your orthotics when buying new shoes.
    7. Your shoe has a good cushioned insole. If the one in the shoe looks thin buy a simple Spenco insole, they usually fit without a problem.
  • Heels of the shoes should be as wide or wider than your heel for stability. Avoid heels over 1" in height as they put greater strain on your arch and add to risk of turning your ankle. Some heels are narrower at the bottom, so the more stability you need, the wider the heel should be.
  • Consider replacing poor quality or worn insoles with a neoprene cushion insole. This will extend the life you're your shoes and add comfort.
  • Consider using some kind of arch support if you are having any knee, foot or back pain.
  • Check your shoes for wear at least every 6 months. The outer-side of the heel of shoes tends to wear out first. When wear is between 1/8 and 1/4", have the heels replaced.

    People can have foot, knee or back pain when their shoes are worn. It is even more crucial for runners to repair/replace shoes more often.

    Some people have the inner side of their soles wear out due to a valgus heel problem, consider getting a heel wedge to correct heel alignment.

    Always wear some type of sock to avoid blisters, calluses and roughing of foot tissue. Socks also provide a layer of cushion to your skin and bones.

    Learn to use the full coordinated movement of your body when walking. The Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais Method can help you develop greater awareness and kinetic participation of your whole body. Just using arch supports doesn't mean you know how to use your arches! See clip FC 5 to see how the arch can be consciously raised, lowered and balanced.

    Kurashova Tissue Re-education Techniques can restore the elasticity of muscles, which are over-contracted and tight. These techniques also improve circulation, which will help all foot problems heal.

    Strengthen your feet. Doing gentle foot exercises throughout the day can be very helpful, especially if done before you know you will be on your feet a lot, like for social events, conventions, vacations and working on ladders. If you carry heavy loads to or for work, remember that although temporary, the extra weight that is carried is transmitted to your feet. Therefore your feet must be strong and well supported. During pregnancy strengthening and supporting your feet is especially important. (See clip FC4)

    Walk on variable surfaces. The most satisfying surface I've walked on has been a pebble beach. This surface really gives one's feet not only a massage but also a chance to conform and adapt to a dynamic challenge. It is firmer than sand and can strengthen your feet as well as your balance. Concrete and asphalt surfaces slap up hard on our feet. Prolonged standing on hard surfaces puts foot muscles to sleep. Wake 'um up.

Functional Foot Problems, Overview

Many foot related problems are the result of weakness in foot/ankle musculature. As we age or live more sedentary lives our foot muscles can weaken, especially when we walk on modern hard surfaces.

Diabetics are more prone to muscle weakness and eventual bony weakness in their feet. Excess weight gain can strain muscles not strong enough to carry the load.

Muscular tightness as a result of over-use is another contributing factor in foot problems. We need calf muscles that are elastic and allow the foot to bend up at least 10° from the horizontal when standing with a straight knee. If this range of motion is limited while bearing weight on the foot, the arch flattens more than it should in order to compensate. Over time, tight calf muscles will cause arches to fall, especially if they are subject to running, prolonged standing or excess weight.


I often see strained, tight muscles in the front of the shin causing poor foot mechanics. How could these shin muscles get so tight? We often hurry when we walk tightening our lower legs as we lift and advance our feet. This over-contraction causes a strain and shortening of these muscles. A contracted muscle does not function with the normal amount of shortening and lengthening that is should; hence its coordination and timing are off and it does not produce full motion.

These factors are compounded by walking on hard surfaces such as concrete and asphalt and further aggravated by wearing shoes with poor support.

Use of the Feet

Finally, most people lack the awareness of how they are using their whole body especially their feet. We need an upper body that twists freely as we walk; arms that swing freely and a pelvis and low back that are free to rotate as well. There is a rotational motion in our legs that is timed to work with the foot to lower and raise our arches during walking. When was the last time you felt the alternating pass off of weight through one foot to the other with your arches raising and lowering? It is truly amazing once you become aware of how you can free your feet instead of plodding along with non-responsive feet. Walking can become very interesting.

Even when standing stationary many people have the habit of allowing the weight to sink down one leg and flatten one or both arches. I call this allowing collapse into the feet. The Alexander Technique can help retrain your habits of standing and walking for better support and freedom.

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MovementWise Christine Inserra P.T.
Certified Teacher of the Alexander Technique & Feldenkrais Method
Physical Therapy serving Chicago and the Greater Chicagoland Area