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From birth, and throughout our lives, gravity is the only constant we experience. Gravity dominates this present moment, and everything our bodies experience as we stand and move is governed by our tactics and strategies to manage our mass. For our sea-dwelling antecedents, who evolved neutrally buoyant, gravity was a non-issue. However, when their descendants slid onto land, every evolutionary change occurred in the context of interacting more efficiently with the Gravitational Vector. Bipedal Primates mastered loading their bodyweight entirely through the pelvis and hind legs, freeing their forelimbs for other purposes. A vital attribute of primate evolution requires that many of the structures/functions that keep our current center of mass within reach of our bodies center of gravity are embedded within our two feet.
While walking or running, our feet provide significant shock/energy absorption or rigid ground contact to oppose falling. Similar to how a spring stores energy, much of the energy absorbed through our feet and legs can potentially be reinserted into the next step, enabling efficient bipedal gait. This combination of functional complexity and robustness of structure is perhaps unparalleled in animal neurophysiology. More detail of the Biomechanics of these functional and structural dynamics is presented in the section on the LOCOMOTIVE CORE. Conversely, the Feet can offer an extremely rigid, compressional structure to connect with the ground when required to keep us from tipping to the side. There is further discussion of this subject in the section on LATERAL STABILIZATION.
Our feet are perhaps the part of ourselves we pay the least attention to until they complain. However, as the feet establish the foundational “footing” for our bodies, they are often the most significant factor underlying structural issues. As our knees and hips “stack” above our feet, if the feet do not express a fully functional connection with the ground, the knees and hips will compensate within the extent of their scope. It is so common for knee and hip issues to trace to the feet; it is the place a Manual Therapist should start troubleshooting these issues. Our structure stacks above our hips, thereby spreading compensations upwards into our necks and even into the organization of the bones of our skulls. When through Manual Therapy or other therapeutic interventions, structural issues are temporarily alleviated, but then recur it is probable that training of stance and gait is required, which starts with how we use our feet. If our bodies can return to an optimal form, they will take a lot of the ergonomic assault of our modern behaviors, such as driving or sitting at a desk, looking at our phones, or standing on concrete.
We are Thinking Animals. We often are absorbed in planning and doing. These both relate to the future. Our intent in “getting there” expresses through our body language and in how we use our feet. This “getting ahead” posture tends to put our center of mass ahead of the center of gravity of our bodies, where we, in essence, fall forward to move ahead. This results in the heavy heel strike and pronated gait, which is considered normal in industrialized societies.
Although often not getting the respect that they deserve, our feet play a central role in our living experience. These phrases exemplify this role:
GETTING A FOOTHOLD/TOEHOLD
TAKING A STAND
STANDING UP FOR ONESELF
PUTTING ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER
PUTTING YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD
Our feet usually are seen as rugged, monolithic structures that bear our weight. In this view, monolithic feet articulate at the ankles, and the toes can wiggle. This perspective perhaps originates from our mechanistic understanding of biomechanics, the flat, stable surfaces upon which we spend most of our time and the shoes which we wear. This view is similar to our idea of how we should construct the foundation of a structure to shoulder the compression of its weight – the more monolithic, massive, and stable, the better. Consequently, in Western Medicine(Podiatry), foot issues are commonly addressed by increasing stabilization (orthotics) and insulation(insoles). These solutions usually find temporary effectiveness, relieving the strain, but because our muscles are not actively engaged in the correction of the imbalance, issues will often eventually intensify. Based on a monolithic image of our feet, we think this tactic should work, and so continue seeking an optimal combination of stabilization and adequate insulation, leading down a Rabbit Hole of continually more aggressive “corrective” inserts. Our feet are not monolithic, comprising of over thirty articulations and hundreds of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Tactics and strategies based on the innate capacities of these intricate structures have great potential for enhancing our global wellbeing and vitality.
Our ancestors did not have foot issues – if the genetic framework for their, and our feet were inherently suboptimal, they would not have survived (it is hard to imagine going up against a Woolly Mammoth with sore feet). One can, therefore, suppose that the foot issues we experience are not a problem with our feet, but in our approach to how we use them. This section of papers on the feet offers some guidelines for improving tactics and strategies for using our feet, which will steer the experience of using feet towards a sense that they are our hands for interacting with the ground as we manipulate our mass to move around. It is hoped that the information presented here will assist in guiding the use of the feet into a more functional dynamic that will have a global influence on health and well-being.
INDEX OF THE INFORMATION AVAILABLE HERE ON FEET:
A discussion on common issues in using our feet is in this section:
HOW WE USE OUR FEET
The explanations of foot structural and functional roles are contained in this section:
FOOT STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION
A Discussion on improving both the structure and function of our feet, thereby influencing our health and vigor:
IMPROVING OUR FEET
Further innovations, research opportunities and social change related to Bipedalism:
INNOVATIONS IN BIPEDALISM
A discussion in how variances in foot function integrate with the Dimensional Mastery Model diagnostically and therapeutically:
USING FOOT FUNCTION DIAGNOSTICALLY
This work is based on this writer’s best understanding of how our prehistoric ancestors used their feet (Paleo Gait). It is his experience that in using this information to develop his foot function his movements have become much more fluid and dynamic. He also has enjoyed a more direct experience of movement within the Field of Gravity and thereby finds that he engages more directly with the present instant. This is as good a description of the experience of being grounded as any he has heard.
As a Manual Therapist, he has also experienced quite dramatic changes in the structure of his client’s feet and their global functions (usually pain reduction) by coaching them using the guidelines presented here. He suggests that if you experiment with these guidelines, over time you will experience the effects that the foundational role optimal foot function plays in many aspects of our lives, from physical vigor to cognitive acuity.