(Health Secrets) Whether you are a marathon runner, mom-on-the-go, weekend golfer, or just love going for a stroll, your feet – and the importance of their role – probably get ignored. This is a major oversight because the feet and pelvis share the crown of being the “foundation of the body”. This means the strength and stability of the entire framework of the body are supported by those structures. When evaluating the body, it is essential to look at three components of the foot and ankle: the bones/joints, the muscles, and the nutrients they need.
Three different types of feet
The foot alone is made up of 26 bones and numerous ligaments and muscles that work very efficiently together to provide rigidity and elasticity depending on what is needed during the gait cycle, or the cycle from one foot’s heel striking the ground to the opposite foot’s big toe pushing off. Since the foot’s relaxation state can be described as a “bag of bones,” the ability to lock those bones and ligaments into a rigid state when support is needed most is essential in proper support for not just the lower extremity but the entire body through kinetic chains. The foot is able to quickly transfer from rigid to loose and back via the Windlass Mechanism, which will be referred to later in this piece. This often leads to three different foot arch types:
1.Oversupination: This occurs when the arch is too high due to rigidity and lack of motion in the foot. Because proper motion is not shared across the entirety of the foot, this often times presents as pain in the heel and top of the foot, as those become the highest pressure points. Increased motion is essential for these cases, so a good shoe would be a cushioned shoe to provide more motion, in addition to chiropractic adjustments to improve joint motion.
2. Overpronation: This is the opposite of oversupination, as this occurs when the arch is too low and lacks stability. This is much more common due to improper shoe support, rigid surfaces, and even genetics. These cases usually need a combination of strengthening exercises to build muscular support and/or orthotics to provide extra support. Motion control shoes work well for milder cases of overpronation.
3. Neutral: This is the ideal presentation. This case pronates and supinates properly and efficiently, loading the foot as it needs to at specific parts of the gait cycle. These feet need neither excessive motion or support, and can benefit from a neutral or stability shoe.
Although there are several muscles used during the gait cycle, three muscles are of the utmost importance in proper foot mechanics: plantar fascia, tibilais posterior, and peroneus brevis.
The plantar fascia is located under the foot and is essential for the Windlass Mechanism, as it needs to contract during push off, but stretch and loosen when the foot is squarely on the ground (midstance).
The tibialis posterior runs along the inside of the lower leg down to underneath the foot, and helps elevate the arch of the foot. This muscle can become inflamed in the shin area, and is primarily the cause of shin splints, rather than the muscle on the front of the shin that usually gets blamed (tibialis anterior). The plantar fascia and tibialis posterior muscles are often irritated in the overpronated foot, because they will often 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, so integrity of this muscle is extra important for the oversupinated foot.
Nutrients that support foot and ankle health
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, often the nerves will too. 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.
Magnesium is another important nutrient for the foot and ankle, as it relaxes the nerves, relaxes and strengthens muscles, and provides bone strength and proper hydration. Just make sure you get forms of magnesium your body can utilize well, like magnesium citrate, ascorbate, and lysyl glycinate.