Here, Postural Stability Instructor and Wellbalanced Clinical Lead, Emma Rollings, shares some useful facts to help you keep your feet in great shape. At our recent virtual coffee morning Emma explained;
When I ask people what they want to achieve by joining WellBalanced, one of the most common answers is “To feel more confident on my feet”.
This shows just how important FEET are for our balance, but they can often be neglected when thinking about improving our balance – they are always wrapped up under socks and shoes after all so maybe ‘out of sight, out of mind’. But, like any structure, our bodies need a strong and stable base to stand tall over. The feet are our contact with the ground to balance our body over, so its essential they are in the best health they can be. So lets pay them some attention….
Amazing Foot Facts
- Each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints and a network of more than 100 tendons, muscles and ligaments.
- One quarter of all the bones in the human body are in your feet.
- There are over 7,000 nerve endings in each foot.
- Feet have 250,000 sweat glands. When active, feet can produce four to six ounces of perspiration a day, sometimes more.
Looking after your feet
As we age, there is a higher prevalence of foot problems – foot deformities, increased aches and pains, dry and fragile skin and decreased sensation. Foot problems can increase the risk of having a fall and also lead to decreased activity levels – so never ignore new or increased discomfort or pain in your feet, and take the time to look at them regularly if you can…
- Regular checks – Self footcare can become more difficult if your mobility, flexibility, dexterity or sight are affected in any way. So, it becomes increasingly important to have regular check-ups with a podiatrist or chiropodist to keep your feet healthy and spot any problems before they become more serious and start to affect mobility and balance.
- Toenails – Keep them cut and under control to avoid pain, infection and ingrown toenails.
- Moisturise – As we get older, the skin loses natural oils and becomes dryer so regular moisturising to keep the skin healthy and supple is important.
What we put on our feet can affect our balance and the risk of having a fall. Our footwear influences the sensations we feel through our feet and our grip on the floor, that can make us feel more or less steady. Here are some footwear tips to feel more confident on your feet:
- Always wear shoes or slippers (bare feet can increase your risk of falling indoors)
- Shoes should fit well – too tight may cause foot problems and too big can cause shuffling and trips
- Wear shoes with low heels, thin soles with good grip and good support around the whole foot and ankle
- Avoid high heels and non-sturdy sandals
- Slippers – shoe-like slippers are best for balance. They should have a grippy sole, secure fastening, fit well and not be worn out.
The many muscles and joints of the feet and ankles are no different to the rest of your body – they need movement to keep them mobile and strong. Exercise can also boost the circulation and sensation in your feet.
Weaker foot and ankle muscles, decreased foot mobility and foot pain cause decreased balance and increased risk of having a fall. So, paying special attention to the feet when you exercise is a win win!
Walking and other forms of standing exercise are all great for the feet but here are some exercise ideas that pay them some special attention:
Seated exercises (best done in barefeet or socks)
- Ankle pumps & circles – with one leg straightened out in front of you, with the heel just off the floor. Point the toes away from you then up to the ceiling, make the movement as big as you can. For ankle circles keep your leg still and circle the ankle, imagine you are drawing a big circle with your big toe.
- Heel peels – Start with flat feet on the floor. One foot at a time, slowly lift the heel then mid-foot then ball of foot off the floor (keeping your big toe on the floor), then reverse this movement. Imagine you are slowly peeling a piece of Velcro off the floor, feeling all the joints in your feet moving!
- Toe mobility – Start with feet flat on the floor. Scrunch the toes, then stretch them out, trying to create gaps between them. Try lifting the toes and replacing them on the floor one by one like a Mexican wave!
- Picking up marbles with toes – place a couple of marbles or small pebbles on the floor and try picking them up and moving them around using your toes. It doesn’t matter if you can’t manage it, just trying will use the foot muscles. Alternatively try scrunching a tea towel and movig it around with your toes.
- Spikey massage balls – Rolling a spikey massage ball or even a hard tennis ball under the foot can be great for boosting foot mobility, circulation and sensation. Try to push down through the foot as you roll through ever part of the foot and toes. Roll backwards and forwards and in small circles. Avoid this one if you have broken skin or wounds on your feet.
Standing (wear shoes for these and have a sturdy support for balance)
- Heel raise – Rise up onto tiptoes and lower back down. Count a slow “1,2,3” for each movement.
- Toe raise – Lift the front of your feet off the floor and lower back down again. Count a slow “1,2,3” for each movement.
- Small steps – Start with feet hip distance apart and parallel. Step one foot forward, transfer your weight onto it, then step it back to the start position- alternate feet. Focus on placing the heel of the foot down first and roll through to the toe as you transfer the weight.
You can follow a 15 minute workout with Emma Rollings by visiting our You Tube page and select Focus on your Feet.