You have a choice. Now you do. As a baby you didn’t. Back then, the task was to stand, counteract gravity in whichever way possible until your feet carried you.
Fast forward to today. How much have you consciously upgraded your standing skills?
When you let your mind drift to the last time you saw baby feet, or the feet of a very young child that couldn't stand yet, what shape feet were they?
I get it, they are cute, and soft, and puffy and - flat. Babies don’t have arches in their feet. By what process do we then, hopefully, gain the arches of our feet as we grow up?
The answer lies simply in the use and coordination of our muscles.
Remember we have twenty six bones held together by connective tissues in our feet?
In order to move and animate and support our body weight on our feet, we need to add muscles into the picture. Ligaments and fascia are all good and useful, but they don’t initiate movement. Plus, when put under load they stretch over time.
This makes your muscles, especially the ones in your feet, anti-gravity warriors.
When we begin to stand, and I wonder how many of you can remember that time of trying to become bipedal, we shift balance from an all wheel drive to toe balance. This is a huge challenge to the leg and foot muscles, as well as overall balance and coordination of the little me or you.
Here is where we differ from the cartoons we try to amuse kids with. Well, there might be many differences, the important one for us are the feet. Our feet are not rigid single lines or pieces. They can move in all three planes.
The directions and actions we are concerned with now are pointing and flexing the foot at the ankle, drawing the top of the foot to the shinbone and pointing it away from the shinbone. The other directions are scooping the foot inwards and lifting it outwards below the ankle, technically termed inversion and eversion respectively.
When learning to stand, and later to walk, a big concern is to not fall forward on our face, or backwards, on our usually nappy bolstered bum.
Much of the subconscious attention thus focusses on the movements we described before as balancing the pointing and flexing. The scooping in and scooping out actions might not develop much or not at all in some people.
Now, take a look at what shape your foot takes on when the foot everts (lifts outwards or also called pronation by many people). Imagine taking that foot shape, placing it on the ground and heap weight on it. Try it out - outside of the foot lifts, and then you stand on it. No matter what foot and arch shape you have this lowers the arch, or simply puts more weight on the area where you suspect the arch to be.
Your learned action of foot muscle engagement, either earlier in your life or now, sets up and supports your arches of the feet.
Without specifically balanced muscle action, gravity wins the game and the arches slowly disappear.
It’s really encouraging to know that now we have a choice. We know we can train and strengthen muscles, we know we have an influence on the existence of our arches.
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