In Part One of the Healthy Feet series, I wrote about why your feet must absolutely be able to move. Your feet are made up of 28 bones and over 50 joints, and each one of these need to be able to move in order for the joints to remain healthy. In Part Two, I wrote about why your muscles need to be strong in order to support the bones and joints of your feet. I also recommended three different exercises that you can do to help improve the strength of your feet. Now, we need to talk about why your feet must be stable in order for them to be healthy.
What?? Feet need to be both mobile AND stable??
Yes, but the timing of when they are mobile and when they are stable is highly important. If they are mobile when they are supposed to be stable, or vice versa, injury and pain can occur. As a certified personal trainer and Muscle Activation Techniques™ specialist in Schaumburg, this is the type of conversation I often have with my clients.
So, what do I mean by mobile and what do I mean by stable? At first glance, these words seem to be opposites, and, indeed, they are. Mobile refers to the ability to move or change. Stabile, on the other hand, refers to the ability to resist moving or changing.
With your feet, they have to be able to both move and resist moving, albeit at different times. When you walk, your foot has to be able to move and flatten to the ground with each step. This is important because it allows your body to absorb the force of your body hitting the ground and transfer it to other joints throughout your body. Think of this idea like a slinky. If you were to drop a slinky, the mobile structure of a slinky would allow it to hit the ground and not bounce up. It absorbs the force and transfers it through its many coils. As a result, the slinky is able to stack itself up neatly or continue its forward momentum down a staircase.
Compare the slinky to a metal rod. If you drop a metal rod, it will hit the ground and fall to the side. Unlike the slinky, it won’t stack itself up neatly. Another way to think about this is to imagine jumping down from a ledge. When you land from your jump, would it be more comfortable to be completely rigid and upright with your legs straight and hips and knees locked? Or, would you bend at your hips and knees and lean forward a little bit? If you are wanting to protect yourself, it will likely be the latter.
Now, imagine that every time you take a step, it is like your feet are jumping off a ledge. Would it make sense for them to stay stiff and rigid when they land? No! You are going to want them to be able to move so you don’t injure yourself.
So it makes sense that your feet have to be able to move, but why do they also have to be stable? Let’s go back to the idea of the slinky and the metal rod. If you were going to lift yourself up onto a ledge, would you want to have a metal rod to help push off of or a slinky? Likely, the slinky would not be of much use, so you would opt for the metal rod. The stability of the metal rod would give you something solid to push off of to help lift yourself up. Conversely, the slinky would collapse under your weight and would be highly inefficient for helping your get up onto the ledge.
Every time you push yourself forward when you step, your foot has to be like that metal rod–solid and stable so you can propel yourself forward or up. Over time, if your foot is unable to be stable and collapses when you try to push off, it will become stressed and possibly painful.
Just think about how many times you take a step during a day. Now imagine what it would be like to have your foot collapse every time you step forward because it is unable to become a stable, rigid lever with which to propel yourself. It would be like trying to use the metal rod to push yourself up onto a ledge, but every time you push the rod into the ground it bends in half instead of staying stiff and rigid. It is going to take significantly more energy to push yourself up onto the ledge with that kind of rod than with a rod that stays rigid.
The catch is, as mentioned above, that your feet have to be both stable and mobile at the appropriate times. If they are not mobile, it will be like jumping off the ledge and landing with your legs perfectly straight and your knees locked–Ouch!! However, if your feet cannot become stable, it will be like trying to push yourself up onto the ledge with a slinky instead of a metal rod–inefficient, exhausting, and stressful.
One way to make sure that your feet are appropriately mobile and stable is to visit your local Muscle Activation Techniques™ specialist. By improving how well the muscles of your feet work, your local specialist can improve both the stability and mobility of your feet. Your MAT™ specialist can also assess the rest of your system to see how your knees, hips, trunk, and upper body may be affecting your feet. Additionally, performing the three strengthening exercises discussed in the last Healthy Feet post can help to keep your feet strong and moving well.
Remember, your feet have to be both mobile and stable in order to stay healthy and function appropriately. But, equally as important, they need to be mobile and stable at the right time when you step. If the timing of mobility and stability is off with your feet, they, as well as other areas of your body, can start to become stressed.
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