Pop quiz- how many joints do you think you have in each foot? Five? Ten or twelve?
Thirty-three. There are more joints in each of your feet than there are days in a month! Isn't that wild?!
Now, the total number of joints in the human body depends on some variables, including things like whether your call the plates in your skull joints, or when you're counting- babies have more bones than adults, which fuse together as we grow. In general, we have between 250 and 350 joints.
If we assume 250 joints, in an adult, counting only the places bones both meet and move, 66 foot joints is 26.4% of your body's total. That's over a quarter of ALL your body's joints that you're standing and walking around on every day.
Here's why I care- we don't use most of those joints. And just like when you take a cast off an arm and it's weak and thin, both the muscle and the bone wasted away, when you put casts on your feet they waste away too. This leaves you with weak joints, and a tendency to injury. And feet injuries quickly impact the rest of your body in not-good ways. When your feet have problems, the ankles, knees, hips, spine, and even shoulders can take on the work of moving you in inappropriate ways, and cause further injuries quickly.
But, wait, back up a few sentences, you say. Casts? On your feet?
Sure! A cast is something hard and immobile, that prevents movement. In the case of a broken arm, a cast goes over the elbow joint (or wrist or shoulder) so the joint can't move because that would pull on the break, preventing healing. In the case of feet, a cast goes over the feet so they don't have to feel things in the environment that are hard, sharp, cold, hot, wet, etc.
We call them shoes.
I get it- shoes are helpful, and they can look awesome, and there's lots of people that can't handle the thought of going barefoot in their own house, let alone outside. But we have to take off the casts to be truly strong in our whole bodies!
Yes, I'm saying don't wear shoes- but not all the time! I'm also saying, wear less shoe-y shoes, as much as you can. Here's what I mean:
In order to strengthen a newly-healed broken arm, you'll start doing "normal" things again but find that the weak arm needs to build strength back up. OK, you'll move that cast iron pan with the other hand. You'll carry that grocery bag with both arms. Maybe you'll ice it or rub it or elevate it at the end of the day.
But your feet, all the way down there, as far away from your brain as they can get? If you just start living your normal life in bare feet or minimal shoes, after a lifetime of wearing the stiff, structured ones, you'll be injured before you notice it. So we have to do this gently:
1. Wear thinner, flatter shoes more often. Get used to feeling more of the world underneath you
2. Stretch your toes, feet, and ankles
3. Wear yoga socks to start separating your toes
4. Practice lifting your big toes, scrunching and spreading your toes, pointing and flexing your feet, when you're barefoot
Don't just ditch your shoes and go full Hobbit- for starters, you'll never be allowed in a public space! But start paying attention to how stiff your feet are, how many ways you can move and stretch them, and how much work you can get them to do in your day. They'll thank you for years and years to come.
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Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
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This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health or healthcare advice. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition or mental or emotional condition. Working with us is not a guarantee of any results. Paula Billig owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted.