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  • Aiza Ismaila

Let's talk about feet part 1.

Updated: May 10, 2019

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In this episode I talk about feet and shoes and why it is important, as I believe we take our feet for granted. We have 26 bones, 33 joints and 100 muscles just to control our foot, for some reason the way our shoes are shaped, compromise our foot mobility and restrain from the right firing order to be done when we walk which over time make cause bunions, and toes deformities such as hammer and can have a cascade effect and cause knee pain hip pain or low back pain.


fig.1 fig.2


Let's have a closer look on our feet, as demonstrated above (fig1 and fig2): be barefoot and grab a casual or classy type of shoes but not a trainer, put the shoe beside your foot and just watch the shape of the shoes, the shape of your foot, do they look the same? Do your shoe look like could fit your foot with changing the shape of your foot? Most of our shoes bring our toes together and most likely bring the big toe (hallucis) into a deviation, this happens passively overtime and starts by a muscle imbalance and can end up by change of shape of the bones of the foot which over time, decade and decade will create a definite change of the shape of the toe: bunion (hallux valgus evolution fig3)



fig 3. bunion evolution over time to definite change of the shape.

These stage happens overtime, but people don't know this can be addressed at a earlier stage, indeed the muscle balance needs to be addressed with manual therapy and joints mobilisation: myoskeletal alignment for the foot and toes as shown on fig 5 below.



fig 4: demonstration of 3rd layer and first layer on the right : tight adductor hallucis, neurologically overstimulated and the abductor hallucis weak and neurologically inhibited and not strong enough neurologically to bring the toe back into alignment.


Indeed being held together tight in a shoe, bringing the biog toe into deviation toward the small toe, emphasise tightness and neurological overstimulation of the adductor hallucis and a weak neurological activation of adductor brevis

Our shoes if they don't allow freedom of movement of our ankle and toes, it may compromise firing order of our muscles when we walk, run and more, which has an impact on strengthening and great balance of our foot which may cause weaknesses and makes us prone to foot pain and foot dysfunction such as plantar fasciitis, tarsal tunnel, or simple tendon pain on different area of our foot.

fig 5: demo before and after treatment provided to address hammer toes

Indeed being held together tight in a shoe, bringing the biog toe into deviation toward the small toe, emphasise tightness and neurological overstimulation of the adductor hallucis and a weak neurological activation of adductor brevis

Our shoes if they don't allow freedom of movement of our ankle and toes, it may compromise firing order of our muscles when we walk, run and more, which has an impact on strengthening and great balance of our foot which may cause weaknesses and makes us prone to foot pain and foot dysfunction such as plantar fasciitis, tarsal tunnel, or simple tendon pain on different area of our foot.



Let's open up and be honest for a moment, have you ever bought a pair of shoes that you didn't find very comfortable but they were gorgeous so you decided to go ahead and to buy them thinking it will be okay overtime?

Have you? Well I did many many time, to be honest there were some time the shoe ended up giving up on me and opened up and got wider so it wasn't too bad but I had to go through a tough process, suffering in silence for a while before it could potentially be more comfortable. (some of them have never felt comfortable despite being gorgeous).


I'm a shoe size 8 and younger I have let fashion taken over rational decision, there were many pair of shoes that I liked and already at the time I didn't have "New Look" (as an example of a store which makes big size shoes) so on top of having a shoe size 8, I have wide feet some 98% of the time the only girly pair of shoes I could find was size 7 and thin so it was a torture to wear them but i felt like I didn't have a choice, it was the only choice I had if I wanted to me feminine and fashionable like any teenagers or young adult. All these years of actually torture brought me to the foot number 2 on fig 3, but since I have been in Belfast I have been walking a lot and comfort took over fashion, wore a lot of trainers, walked a lot more barefoot at home and started doing some big toe flexion and extension exercises to help and manage to bring my big toe to foot number 1 fig 3. My toe is almost straight but the exercises are challenging as my nervous system need to remember how to fire muscles requested for specific movement.


I have been recently sharing on social media this picture of my new pair of running shoes, this pair if from Vibram 5 fingers, there is different brands, I just choose this one because of the toe separation which doesn't compromise toe movement and function. With these type of shoes, it gives the feeling to be barefoot, basically just a light protection against glass and stones, but otherwise I feel everything, which give constant sensory input to my brain to strengthen the sole of the foot and stimulate better stability, injury prevention. No cushion, very close to natural sensation so I intend to mix run walk for now as transition and avoid tarmac, for now only on grass or dirt in nature or sand.


Toes deformities, (hammer toes) bunions, (hallux valgus) can be reversed, or prevented by spending time barefoot or practising flexion and big toe extension.

Until recently, figures used to show predominency for those deformities to happen more to women rather than men because of the type of shoes that women wear all the time but for the last decade men have been wearing shoes that present the same dysfunction that women are exposed too.


So whatever is your reason to wear shoes that impact your foot shape, for pleasure, fashion, work, try to get a balance between the time you spend in those shoes and other more comfortable or barefoot at least at home ... Why not having a walk on the grass barefoot or on the sand, let try to get back to our natural state as far as footwear in concerned at least occasionally to counter balance the effect of our shoes.


Unlike me suffering in silence for the sake of fashion is not worth it, so we have some work to do toward younger generation as it can definitely have some long terms consequences if not addressed or changed not introduced.


To finish this chapter about feet, I would like to talk about the use of insoles. Insoles can straight away chance the force applied to your foot and can change your gait, and adjust it which is fantastic. But I believe in some case it should be introduce as a last resort or temporarily with some specific strengthening exercises to help the brain to correct itself the changes that needs to be applied rather than using something external: the insoles which will maintain our nervous system in a comfortable state and maintain our soft tissue (muscles) lazy and won't do the work required to improve the issue.

However in some cases despite the exercises no improvement is noticed so in this case I would encourage the use of insoles but it shouldn't be used like the first solution as in this case it would be a short cut.

Adjustments will go all the way up to knees and hips , back and even up to your head and will depend of information picked up by our feet. An imbalance at the bottom has repercussion elsewhere, so let's put the effort to create change and it will have an impact on our overall wellbeing, prevent injury and may influence the pain we may experience.


Next week our episode about feet and heels will be published so stay tuned.


If you have any questions, please let me know, any topic you would like me to discuss about or if you are in need of a treatment check my website www.healing-hands-massages.com/book-online


#sportmassage #massagewithaiza #feet #vibramshoes #5fingershoes #stability #flexibility #plasticity #bunions #hammertoes #prevention

















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