Foot pain is arguably one of the worst types of pain. After all, it’s not like you can just stop walking until you feel better.
Instead, you just continue to suffer day in and day out, step after step.
But, the good news is that whether you’re living with plantar fasciitis, stress fractures of your feet, tendonitis or any other type of foot or ankle pain, there is one common way to feel better and it doesn’t involve prescription drugs and their side effects, needles or surgery.
In fact, it’s as simple as kicking off your shoes…
Go naked from the ankle down
According to new research from Ithaca College’s School of Health Sciences and Human Performance barefoot activities could be the key to overcoming foot pain.
That’s because the small, often overlooked muscles in your feet that play a vital but underappreciated role in movement and stability. Their role is similar to that of the core muscles in the abdomen.
In fact, according to the researchers, there is a feedback cycle between the larger “extrinsic” muscles of the foot and leg, the smaller “intrinsic” muscles of the foot and the neural connections that send information from those muscle sets to the brain.
When that feedback loop is broken, it can lead to the overuse injuries that can plaque you for years.
Shoes are the chief culprit of that breakdown. When you put a big sole underneath your foot, you put a dampening effect on that information.
This causes the larger muscles to over-compensate and over-exert past the point of exhaustion and their natural ability to repair and transfer forces from activities like walking to your bones, tendons, and ligaments, which leads to overuse injuries and leaves you suffering.
Strengthen your foot core to decrease pain
The simplest way to reintroduce the feedback provided by the small muscles of your feet is to simply go barefoot. Whenever possible at home and at work, kick off your shoes and allow the small muscles in your feet to strengthen naturally.
Other ways to improve your foot strength include:
- Barefoot exercise – Activities like Pilates, yoga, martial arts, some types of dance that are done without shoes allow your body to deal with changing postures and forces that are great for developing foot core strength.
- Short-foot exercise – To do this exercise, you concentrate on squeezing the ball of your foot back toward your heel, without curling your toes. It’s a subtle motion that can be done anywhere, while you’re seated or standing. To start, sit in a chair, bare feet on the floor. Engage the muscles in the arches of your feet as you try to slide the big toe of each foot toward the heel. Hold for 6 seconds and then relax. Do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions. Once this feels comfortable, try the move standing.
- Toe Swapping – Start with your foot flat on the floor with equal pressure on your heel, the base of the big toe, and the base of the little toe. Raise your big toe while keeping the other 4 toes flat and pressed into the floor. After holding a few seconds, flatten your big toe down into the floor and try to lift up the 4 small toes. Try not to let your whole leg roll back and forth as you swap back and forth between the big toe and the 4 small toes.
- Playing the Piano – Start with your foot and all the toes flat with equal weight on the inside and outside of the foot. Raise your big toe. Keeping the big toe up, raise up the second toe to join it. Then add the third toe, the fourth, and finally, your little toe. Try to make each toe come up separately. Once all your toes are up off the floor, start putting them back down one at a time starting with the little toe. Keep rippling them up, and then down, like someone playing scales on a piano.
Don’t let foot pain make every step a misery. Spend more time barefoot and use the exercises above to strengthen the core muscles of your feet and get moving again.
- Going barefoot: Strong ‘foot core’ could prevent plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and other common injuries — Ithaca College
- Strengthing The ‘Core’ Muscles Of The Foot — Advanced Rehabilitation Clinics, Inc. Physical Therapy