Whether you’re are a marathon runner, mom-on-the-go, weekend golfer, or just love going for a stroll, you probably aren’t giving your feet the credit and attention they are due. This is a major oversight because your feet and pelvis share the crown of being the “foundation of the body”. That means the strength and stability of your entire body are supported by these structures. When evaluating how the body functions, it is essential to look at three components of the foot and ankle: the bones/joints, the muscles, and the nutrients they need. This will help you know how to best support your feet so they can support you.
Three different types of foot arches
Your foot is made up of 26 bones plus numerous ligaments and muscles that work together to help you move. They support your gait cycle or the cycle of your foot’s heel striking the ground to the opposite foot’s big toe pushing off. Now here is where the science of how our bodies work gets interesting.
Basically, when your foot is relaxed, it can be described as a “bag of bones.” These bones join forces with your ligaments to provide you with whatever level of rigidity and/or elasticity needed for the activity you are doing. The ability to lock these bones and ligaments into a rigid state when needed is essential for supporting your lower extremities and, in truth, your entire body through kinetic chains. Your foot’s ability to transfer back and forth from rigid to loose quickly is made possible through something called the Windlass Mechanism. We’ll come back to talk about this in more detail later in the article, but first, let’s look take a look at what this function causes… three different foot arch types.
Oversupination occurs when the arch in your foot is too high due to rigidity and lack of motion. Because proper motion is not shared across the entire foot, this can cause pain in your heel and on the top of your foot as they become the highest pressure points. To help reduce or eliminate the pain, we recommend increasing motion and getting a good, cushioned shoe that provides ease of motion. Chiropractic adjustments can also help improve your foot’s joint motion.
Overpronation is the opposite of oversupination. This occurs when your arch is too low and lacks stability. This is much more common due to improper shoe support, rigid surfaces, and even genetics. To help correct overpronation, we recommend a combination of strengthening exercises for your feet that help build muscular support and/or orthotics to provide extra support. Motion-control shoes also work well for milder cases of overpronation.
Neutral arches are the ideal arch. When you have a neutral arch, your foot is able to pronate and supinate properly. It also spreads the weight across the foot as needed while you walk. People with this type of arch typically won’t need excessive motion or support from a shoe. They can however benefit from a neutral or stability shoe.
Muscles and ligaments that support your feet
Although there are numerous muscles and ligaments used during the gait cycle, these three top the list. They are plantar fascia, tibilais posterior, and peroneus brevis.
The plantar fascia is a thick, weblike ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot. Plantar fascia plays an important role in helping you walk. It acts as a shock absorber and supports the arch of your foot. It’s also located under the foot and is essential for the Windlass Mechanism. The plantar fascia needs to contract during push off, but stretch and loosen when the foot is squarely on the ground or midstance. Many people struggle with plantar fasciitis because they repeatedly strain or injure the ligament of the sole of the foot. This can be caused by excessive running or walking, inadequate shoes, from a jumping injury or more. It’s also the most common orthopedic complaint.
The tibialis posterior runs along the inside of the lower leg down to underneath the foot. It helps elevate the arch of the foot. This muscle can become inflamed in the shin area and is primarily the cause of shin splints. Often, the muscle on the front of the shin usually gets blamed (tibialis anterior). The plantar fascia and tibialis posterior are will typically become irritated in the overpronated foot. This is usually caused because they endure excessive force and stretching.
The peroneus brevis sits on the outside of the lower leg and pulls the foot outward to allow for proper pronation. Integrity of this muscle is extra important for the oversupinated foot.
Nutrients that support foot and ankle health
It might feel odd to think about your feet when considering the nutrients you provide your body, but here is why it is important. The nervous system controls every cell, tissue, organ, and function in the body. This makes nerve function and coordination with muscles and joints extremely important. If these tissues become inflamed, the nerves often become inflammed as well. Long-term inflammation can lead to muscle tissue breakdown and nerve death. In these cases, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and B12 (hydroxocobalamin) are essential for nerve regeneration, as well as for diabetic neuropathies and immune disorders. Daily Balance from Aceva is a great multivitamin that features a potent Vitamin B complex and includes B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12.
Magnesium is another important nutrient for the foot and ankle. It helps relax your body’s nerves, relax and strengthen your muscles, and provides your bones strength and proper hydration. Just make sure you get forms of magnesium your body can utilize well, like magnesium citrate, ascorbate, and lysyl glycinate. I often recommend Triple Mag from Aceva if you’re looking for a good source of magnesium.