Pilates: Foot Review

In honor of summer, and the fabulous Riva Preil, we will use this blog to echo Riva’s advice on summer footwear.  We all know that flip-flops are, in theory, the perfect summer shoe.  They are light, they are airy, and they are very inexpensive.  However, flip-flops provide absolutely no support for our feet.

In an earlier blog, I mentioned the importance of having tone in the muscles of our feet.  If the muscles of our feet have good tone, the bones of our feet can maintain the proper structure they need to balance our legs, pelvis, and spine.  However, if you absolutely need to wear your flip-flops, do the following exercise daily to maintain proper muscle tone in your feet.

You can do this exercise either sitting or standing.  In addition, you will need a small ball, preferably the size of a tennis ball.

Place the ball of your foot on the ball and anchor your heel to the floor (photo 1).  Lift your toes off the ball, and then lower them again attempting to wrap your toes around the ball.  Repeat ten times. With each repetition, the ball of your foot should spread wider and extend further over the ball.

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After ten repetitions, maintain your toes wrapped around the ball.  From here, begin to rotate your foot from right to left (photo 2).  Attempt to keep this motion in your ankle, rather than your knee or your hip.  Do this action ten times.

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Next, roll the ball forward and backward under your foot while you point and flex your foot (photo 3).  This will help you maintain the proper heel striking rhythm that Riva mentions in her blog.  Repeat this action ten 10 times.

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When you have finished with one foot, stand on both feet and observe the difference between each.  Hopefully, the foot your exercised feels more grounded, yet, light and supported.

Stop Flip-Flops?

By Riva Preil

Sure, they may be cute, comfortable, and convenient in an attempt to beat the summer heat…but from a biomechanical perspective, flip-flops may be a poor choice for your summer footwear.  Consider the force that is sent through the lower extremities to the pelvis and spine with each step…multiply that by 10,000 (the recommended amount of steps individuals should take daily)= an immense amount of force is transmitted through the feet and up the kinematic chain each day.  During the normal gait pattern, individuals enter the stance phase (upon completion of the swing phase) with heel strike, followed by foot flat (when the entire foot contacts the ground) and completed with push off through the large toe.  However, flip-flop-wearers take shorter steps, clench their toes excessively (to prevent the flip flop from falling off), and perform heel strike with a decreased amount of vertical force compared to sneaker-wearers.  The poor support offered by flip flops is unfortunately associated with developing plantar fasciitis (tightness of the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot), knee, hip, and even low back pain.

 You may be saying to yourself, “Fine, Riva, I get it…but I’d like to see you try getting a pedicure in sneakers!”  Point well taken, it is not practical or fun to completely eliminate flip-flops from one’s wardrobe.  However, try to replace flip-flops every 3-4 months considering how quickly they lose support. Furthermore, try not to wear them for prolonged periods of time.  Leather flip-flops provide more support than plastic ones, and avoid wearing socks with flip flops.  Finally, make sure that they fit properly- there should be full support from heel to toe.  By following these simple suggestions, you can enjoy your flip flops in tip top health this summer.  Have a happy and healthy summer from all of us at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy!