The Top of Foot Stretch lengthens the front of the shin and ankle, and shortens the plantar surface muscles (you may experience cramping), it also lengthens the tendons that extend, or lifts, the toes. Here’s a primer on Foot Anatomy.
Feet have 26 bones -that’s a LOT of bones. That’s a lot of bones for muscles to attach to and to make up joints for movement. That’s a structure meant for a lot of movement.
Landmarks of the feet are:
Heel – the calcaneus bone. If I asked you to point at your heel, you’d probably indicate the back of the foot, but the calcaneus is a long bone that protrudes behind the ankle, but also runs underneath the ankle and towards the midfoot. It articulates with the talus (which your lower leg bones sit on to make up the ankle), and the cuboid bone. The connection between the talus and calcaneus is the subtalar joint (meaning beneath the talus). The calcaneus is an important structure in our Calf Stretch exercises as the tendons of the calf muscles attach here.
Arch – our understanding is that there is one arch and it is usually collapsed. In fact, there are several arches (some anatomists count more than others) but generally speaking, we have a medial longitudinal (lengthwise) arch, a lateral latitudinal arch and a transverse (across) arch. And they are usually all collapsed.
Ball and toes – toes meet foot at a joint called the metatarsal-phalangeal joint, it’s a mouthful (can you put your foot in your mouth? I do it all the time!) but the long bones of the foot are the metatarsals, and the bones of the toes are phalangeals. So most people call it the MP joint or MPJ. The toes have joints too – called the inter-phalangeal joints. The big toe has one joint and the others have two and yes, you should be able to move them independently, much as you can your fingers when you play the piano.
The most common issues that accompany those areas are:
Bone spurs/Plantar fasciitis
Flat feet/collapsed arches/excessive pronation
Bunion/bunionette (baby toe bunion)/neuroma/corns/hammertoes
Together the foot bones meet in various ways to create 33 joints – joints that are intended to get their fair share of movement. The best way to get that movement is to walk over natural surfaces. The world of flat and level sidewalks are not foot friendly! Ironically, when there is an issue with feet or ankles or hips, the most common advice is to increase support to the foot and ankle with stiffer and more cushioned shoes or boots, and to stick to “no surprise” environments such as indoors mall walking or using paved paths for hiking at best.
There are over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments in each foot, and we use very few of them! We tend to stick our foot into a shoe and overuse the ankle complex and under use the foot muscles. Hence, they get weaker and more atrophied, until which point you cannot even carry out the function of those muscles when cued. They are lost (temporarily I hope). It takes some work to get those muscles back to function, but it’s weirdly fun and rewarding.
I had a two hour workshop in February on Functional Feet and several people who attended reported that their feet felt “FANTASTIC” afterwards, and for a day or two later. Moving your feet muscles brings a feeling of health and vitality and life to those muscles! Because this workshop was so popular, I may repeat it soon (possibly early April – so keep your eyes peeled to the newsletter). Now to just move those feet that much all the time. (Some ideas will follow in the next blog in two weeks.)
I have produced an online course on Healthy Moving for Bunions and although it was made with bunions in mind, anyone with feet that strive for better health, stronger muscles and prevention of the above issues, can benefit from this course and the exercises within it.
I’m happy to help you (either personally, by Skype, or you can consider organizing a workshop in your home town) with foot exercises.