It’s not only dragon-chasing hobbits that have flat feet, many runners and people in general, complain about the persistent problem.
Luckily, humans don’t have to worry about the excessive hair growth and sheer size disproportion that the unfortunate Hobbit has to contend with.
Although flat feet may look fine, they simply do not function properly. This can lead to calf strains, sore knees, painful hips and screwed up backs.
The usual answer to this condition is to wear orthotics. But do orthotics really work? I’ve known clients to wear them for years but they still experience pain while running and exercising.
When they begrudgingly go back to the podiatrist, they usually walk out of the office feeling a few inches taller, not because they’re happy that the problem’s fixed, but they now have larger insoles.
When the feet are extremely flat, the foot pronates (or caves in) and causes the person to walk like a duck. Unfortunately, genetics can play a huge part in having flat feet.
Did you know that an onomatopoeia is the formation of a word that phonetically resembles the sound of that word?
Interesting…(I think so anyway!).
But even more interesting were the findings that Dr. Francis M. Pottenger discovered in his study, Pottenger’s Cats. This study wasn’t exclusive to cats but also applied to humans. Pottenger claimed that flat feet were a side effect of malnutrition in one or both parents.
The human subjects he tested on that had flat feet also exhibited a dysfunction in normal skull development.
Rule of Thirds
If we apply the ‘Rule of Thirds’ to the head, we can calculate if our skulls have developed properly. To start, place your thumb next to your index finger with your teeth together.
1) Place the thumb on the bottom of your chin. The index finger should touch the bottom of your nose.
2) Place your thumb on the bottom of your nose. The index finger should rest between your eyebrows.
3) Place your thumb between your eyes. The index finger should be positioned at your hairline.
In skull development disorders, usually the middle third gets shortened, the top third can be long or short and the bottom third is typically long.
Luckily, I am OK in these pictures but do try it out for yourself!
What does this mean?
These disproportions can all disrupt the ability to breathe through the nose, encouraging the mouth to open during breathing and create a forward head posture.
This can cause pronation of the body (movement into the fetal position), which produces flat feet.
As a survival mechanism, our eyes, ears and teeth must be level with the horizon. This means a lot of factors can affect the head being in the right position and make the whole body overcompensate.
All these adjustments in the body can disrupt the positioning of the feet, so all that orthotics will do at this stage will be to move the compensation up the body.
If the core muscles are shut down for any reason, usually from eating processed food, the brain recruits the hamstrings, which causes the hips to tilt backwards. This also causes the hamstrings to be lengthened and weak, which can attribute to recurring hamstring strains.
The reason the brain wants the hips to tilt backwards in this scenario is to make the spinal discs stack on top of each other, as it’s the next best way to stabilise the hips when there is poor core control. The body knows what it’s doing!
When this all happens, it triggers the thigh and shin bones to rotate out, the feet to turn out and the arches of the feet to fall in.
This all results with the feet not being aligned with the body and over-pronating, causing the big toe to turn inwards, which commonly causes a bunion.
3 steps to stronger feet
There are a few strategies we can apply to help with this problem.
So don’t worry!
1. We should start by stretching out the calves as much as possible, and try not to wear heels greater than an inch, as the calf muscles adaptively shorten over time.
That’s why if you walk barefooted, there is so much tension in the calf muscle, as it pulls the heel upwards, stressing the plantar fascia, producing pain and nerve impingement in the foot.
2. You should try barefoot walking on pebbles or stones everyday and hold pressure on the tight spots of your foot for as long as you can.
Treating these reflex points will give the foot a massage. It will also mobilise the tissues and activate the intrinsic muscles in the foot and turn on the core.
3. You should try and walk around the house in minimalist shoes to let your Achilles tendons regain original length. Once you are comfortable wearing them for household chores then try running in them.
After a while, your body will become accustomed to the new mechanics. The next step is to start wearing Vibram 5-Fingers around the house. Again, once you’re ready then wear them in the gym and then finally try running.
Vibram 5-Fingers will make sure the muscles in your foot are working to their full capacity. Imagine wearing mittens on your hands all your life. Think how lazy your hand muscles would become!
Well, this applies to wearing trainers all the time. The only way to get your lengthened foot muscles working to their full capacity is to try and mimic being barefoot.
Orthotics often shifts the compensation to the knee, hip or back. No part of the body works on its own. Try these three steps to help strengthen your feet.
It’s also just as important to clean up our diet to ensure the gut is not inflamed and the core is functioning. Only after all of this has been addressed, should we start to consider wearing orthotics.
Unless you are Frodo and his friends.
Then I would suggest anything to help you run away from the orcs. Orthotics included.