We see a lot of patients who are struggling with balance and fear of falling. They may even say something like “I have hammer toes” or “my feet always feel clenched”. At FootCare by Nurses, through education, touch, and massage we can actually help feet regain the balance, strength, and flexibility that are needed, in order for them to function well.
When toes are clenched it is often indicative of weight being forward on the foot. Toes are meant to balance us, so, when the weight is forward (like climbing up a hill) the toes clench, and dig in. This can easily be demonstrated by just leaning forward and feeling your toes. Sometimes people complain about the ball of their foot hurting. This is also related to where weight is being placed.
While our bodies are strong in many ways, our bodies are also designed to balance our weight certain ways and move weight across our bodies in other ways. The big toe and its 1st metatarsal relative is actually a pivot and leverage point for a body in motion, not a weight bearing point, which is what we see a lot of. Weight not worn the way the body is designed to carry it will eventually cause pain and even structural damage, such as bunions, hammer toes, mallet toes, knee pain, hip and back pain and even neck pain.
So how are you supposed to wear your weight? Balance is actually found towards the outside and back of the foot. Try standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Then lift up your great toes. Look up as you do this. You will notice that your stand more upright and will feel a shift of weight from the inside of your body to the outside. Now take your arms. Put them down by your side and then rotate your hands and arms outwards. This will open up your chest and shoulders, also bringing the weight out. What you should notice now is that you are standing more upright, and feel more balanced. In the clinic, we would have given you a before and after push test so that you could see the difference in your balance and your connection to the ground. By lifting your ‘Ski-tips” you have moved the weight from the inside (pronation) to outside (supination) and also back onto your heel. Now your ankle bones are aligned into your tibia, which is how the bodies weight is supposed to be distributed when standing. Now take a few steps. Notice that starting at a balanced place actually allows you to walk heel to toe and that you might even have a bit more spring in your step. If you still feel a little top heavy, breathe out. This will lower your center of gravity.
Ankle and foot strength is also important. It’s easy to strengthen those. Do the alphabet several times a day with your ankles. Pay special attention to moving the foot in and out, not just up and down (as if you were stepping on the gas). Practice picking things up with your toes to strengthen your forefoot. Shoes do not allow the foot to fully function, which is why it is important to keep feet strong and healthy. Feet are supposed to be flexible and they are the foundation upon which we count on to move us around. Practicing raising your ski tips up and doing your alphabet daily will not only strengthen your feet, it will also enhance your pumping system. All of this enhances health and well-being.