As a certified personal trainer and Muscle Activation Techniques™ specialist in Schaumburg, I understand the importance of having healthy feet. In fact, making sure my clients have healthy feet is of great importance to me because of how often we use our feet. Nearly every physical activity is heavily dependent on your feet being healthy, stable, and functioning well. Furthermore, issues that begin in the feet can quickly impact the health and function of the rest of the body.
In the past, I have written about how my feet have impacted my hips, knees, trunk, shoulders, and low back, and vice versa. Without question, every area of your body needs to be functioning well in order for you to perform optimally. However, foot health can easily be overlooked when your feet are hiding in your shoes all day.
With that in mind, let’s discuss some basic anatomical facts and features about feet, as well as why it is SO important that your feet are strong and are able to move well.
Your feet are comprised of 28 bones each; 30 if you count the tibia and fibula–your lower leg bones–due to their articulation with the talus (1). Where your lower leg bones and foot come together is where your ankle, or talocrural joint, is. These bones create nine groups of joints in each respective foot, with there being a total of fifty-five articulations between all of these groupings (2). That is a lot of individual joints in something that is often looked at as one singular unit! The majority of these joints are considered to be synovial joints. Synovial joints have certain requirements regarding motion and force that need to be met in order for the joint to remain healthy (2).
Synovial joints are comprised of many features, one of which is hyaline cartilage and another is synovial fluid (3). Hyaline cartilage provides a low-friction, shock-absorbing surface for joints. When the joint is healthy, your bones move smoothly on each other. However, as the hyaline cartilage starts to become less healthy, your joints may start to move less smoothly. Hyaline cartilage survives by receiving its nutrients via a process called imbibition where the cartilage is squished, releasing its fluid, and then, as it becomes “un-squished”, it soaks up the nutrient-rich fluid around it. Think of it like a sponge. Synovial fluid is released by the synovial membrane at the onset of joint motion, serving to keep the articulating joint surfaces lubricated. **The important take away from all of this is the joints in your feet need to be able to move and need force put through them in order for your feet to remain healthy.**
One way to help ensure that motion continues to occur in your feet and forces continue to be applied as they should is to make sure the muscles of your lower legs and feet are working efficiently. This is where Muscle Activation Techniques™ (MAT™) comes in. Muscle Activation Techniques™ is an assessment process to analyze what muscles are not contracting efficiently and a means by which to give those muscles the opportunity to contract better. By providing an opportunity for muscles to contract more efficiently, your joints may start to move better. Additionally, the muscles in your feet may start to apply the necessary amount of force to the joints in your feet, helping them to stay healthy.
By wearing shoes all day or doing activities where you are constantly on your feet (such as running and playing sports), the muscles of your feet may lose their contractile efficiency. On the one hand, with shoes, your foot muscles may have to do very little and become deconditioned, similar to if you were to not exercise for an extended period of time. On the other hand, too much physical activity can start to create imbalances and compensations as certain muscles fatigue. This may reduce the contractile efficiency of your foot muscles, as well. This is in part why it may be initially difficult for you to go from wearing stiffer shoes with greater support to wearing shoes with minimal support–you haven’t trained the muscles of your feet to be strong enough to support your body without the aide of the shoes.
At the most basic level of understanding, muscles do one thing: generate tension in order to control the distance between their two endpoints of where they attach into bones. Subsequently, controlling the distance between these points also means muscles control how bones move on each other and, more specifically, how the contact surfaces of the bones articulate. If this contractile efficiency is lost, the opportunity for efficient joint motion and force application to the joints may be lost as well, which will be detrimental to the health of those joints.
So, to recap and highlight the important parts:
- Your feet are comprised of many bones and many joints.
- These joints need motion and appropriate force application in order to be healthy.
- Muscles create and control motion of the joints as well as apply forces to the bones which then get transferred through the joints.
- If the muscles are not contracting efficiently, joint motion and appropriate force application may be limited.
- Muscle Activation Techniques™ is a means by which to provide an opportunity for muscles to contract more efficiently.
**Muscles contracting more efficiently = joints moving better and forces appropriately applied to the joints = healthier joints.**
How well are the muscles of your feet contracting? Schedule a Muscle Activation Techniques™ assessment with your local specialist to find out!
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- Moore, Keith L.; Dalley, Arthur F.; Agur, Anne M.R.. Clinically Oriented Anatomy, Sixth Edition. p 522.
- Moore, Keith L.; Dalley, Arthur F.; Agur, Anne M.R.. Clinically Oriented Anatomy, Sixth Edition. p 652.
- While the information on synovial joints in this post can be found in many textbooks and online, it was first presented to me in the RTS™ courses.