When you hit the gym it’s likely that you’ll be focusing on the major muscle groups, whether it’s squatting your way to glute strength or building those biceps. But there’s one body part you’re probably missing and doing so could be doing you damage.
It's your feet.
Yep, they’re the foundation of our entire body but the majority of us hardly give them a second thought aside from squeezing them into our Insta-worthy joggers.
For Dr. Emily Splichal – podiatrist, movement specialist, author and global leader in barefoot science and rehabilitation – clueing people up on the importance of our extremities is a personal mission.
“As the only contact point between the body and the ground, our feet are not only our body's foundation (base) but also our brain's gateway into the perception of the ground we walk on,” Emily says.
“Any imbalance in our foundation (feet) will impact our body's alignment proximally. Similarly, any disconnect between the feet, brain, and ground can result in delayed stability when we move and increases our risk of overuse injuries.”
She says that there are several foot issues that are unique to women, many due to hormonal fluctuations.
“First, when a woman is pregnant, her feet are put under undue stress and hormonal changes. This can often result in widening and weakening of the feet. For my pregnant or postnatal clients, I focus on regaining their foot strength and stability. Second has to do with hormone changes again. Women are uniquely susceptible to tendon injuries due to the decreasing levels of oestrogen with age. This means that the peri-post menopausal woman is uniquely susceptible to tendonitis, tendon dysfunction, and plantar fasciitis. Keeping the feet strong during this transition period is very important."
And surprise, surprise – our choice of footwear is a major issue.
“High heels put a unique stress on the foot and ankle which can result in bunions, hammertoes, neuromas and plantar fasciitis, to name a few,” Emily explains.
Fortunately, there are a few things we can be doing to combat the injuries that our stilettos inflict.
“I recommend all my female patients that need to or choose to wear high heels for work or socially need to focus on foot mobilisation every single day. I advise all my patients do 5 minutes of foot release in the morning and in the evening followed by a foot activation.”
“The foot can be released by standing on a golf ball or lacrosse ball while the feet can be activated by pushing the toes down into the ground while exhaling.”
Emily also recommends shirking your shoes and going barefoot for a while.
And while you’re spending more time sans shoes, it might be worth taking a closer look at your hoofs. Emily says that issues with your feet can reflect greater health concerns.
“Tingling and numbness at night are some of the biggest issues I see. This can be hinting that you have a nutritional deficiency, your blood sugar is not under control or you need to focus on foot recovery.”
“Another common condition I see that actually means bigger issues is fungal infections. This can often mean that your digestive system or immune system is under stress.”
Time to give your tootsies some TLC.
Emily will be speaking at Nurture Her, an immersive business retreat for female entrepreneurs and leaders to connect, recharge and refocus. Nurture Her will be taking place at the InterContinental Fiji, from 24 – 28 October 2018.