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No Foot, No Horse

Every horseman is familiar with the saying “No foot, no horse.” It means regardless of how beautiful and how perfect the rest of the animal may be, if it has faulty feet, do not buy it! Such is the importance of your foundation.

Most children begin walking at the age of one, give or take a month or two, and as soon as that happens, we stick their feet in shoes. My children are now young adults, but I back in the 90s when they were little, I was under the impression the more expensive the shoe was, the better it must be, especially if it was European. Obviously appealing to my sense of guilt, I bought my kids adorable little French sneakers. I wish now I’d let them go barefoot as long as possible.

Imagine this, as soon as your child started picking objects up with their fingers to examine more closely (and then stick in their mouth) we slapped a pair of thick, stiff leather gloves on their hands. What would happen to the dexterity of that child’s fingers? Unable to use their fingers independently, they would grasp objects with their bound fingers as a whole unit, and then overuse the forearm (in an attempt to stick the object in their mouth).

This is exactly what shoes do to feet. Your feet have the potential for far more dexterity than you are probably using. For example, can you lift only your big toe, leaving the other four toes relaxed on the floor (no gripping)? If you can lift it, does it come straight up, or does it lift up and then go veering over the second toe? Try to lift it straight up.

Now, leave your big toe on the ground and lift the other four toes. Do they all come up?

You actually have dedicated muscles in your feet that are responsible for lifting your toes up, or bending them down, or moving them apart (spreading). But those muscles are often so unused that the motor connection may be missing.

Most of us have motor programs that are like having a phone number on “speed dial.” No matter who you want to call, your brain just dials that same number. So you need to program in a new number, but for a while, you have to dial it manually every single time. Eventually your brain has that new number on speed dial. So…you have this movement pattern that your brain is used to performing and can perform speedily. But you want a new, different movement. You might have to actually reach down and move the toes manually. Eventually your brain will connect that nerve to that muscle and you will get a flicker (Flicka?) of movement back in that muscle, eventually leading to restored movement.

So what is the importance of restoring muscle movement in the foot? Your body prioritizes the needs of muscles, delivering more oxygen to the ones that are being used. If they aren’t being used, they only get enough oxygen to survive, not to thrive. So simply by practicing movement in the toes, you are improving circulation and therefore cellular health to those tissues. If you cannot move your toes independently, you can surmise that there is already neuropathy (or nerve damage) beginning, leading to loss of sensation, loss of mobility, and starting you down the slippery and dangerous path of gait instability.

Remember, twenty-five percent of your bones and muscles reside below your ankles; putting on your sneakers and heading to the gym is missing out on a lot of health potential. Watch for my regular foot health series coming up this Spring!


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