We’ve reached the last of my ‘Self-Defense’ tip series and the final area I will discuss today is the ankle and foot where your body makes contact with the ground about five to ten thousand times per day! Talk about taking a pounding! (BTW, that’s a picture of me doing Karate at age 12)
Any time you take a step, you want to make sure that foot is planted stable and secure and that’s even more important if you participate in any athletic activity. If this first link in the kinetic chain is weak, if something is off in the way that the bones, joints, nerves and muscles work in unison to move you around, then the forces that travel up through the foot and ankle will likely cause some sort of lower extremity injury. It could be plantar fasciitis, medial tibial stress syndrome or ‘shin splints’, an ankle sprain, a stress fracture or maybe even a neuroma. Also, if the kinetic chain is not working properly, your performance in your chosen sport will suffer. You could lose 10 yards on your golf swing, run the 100m a full second slower or lose some control on your curve ball pitch.
Before we get into how to prevent some of these common injuries from happening, let’s look at the basic architecture of the ankle and foot. Borrowing from the field of carpentry, the ankle joint is referred to as a ‘mortise’ joint…a space that something else fits into. The two long bones of the lower leg called the tibia and fibula create a squarish space that houses the main ankle bone called the talus. In the foot, there’s 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and over 7000 nerve endings. That’s some crazy complexity! Yet it works in perfect harmony to support the entire weight of your body and even up to 8x your body weight when running or jumping.
So what can you do to preserve the integrity of this intricate ankle/foot system? Try implementing the following:
- Wear properly fitting shoes – it sounds so simple, yet people regularly chose fashion over fit. Alot of people will buy shoes that are a bit too wide, too narrow, too tight, have too high of a heel, etc simply because it looks good or even because they got a good deal at the Buffalo outlet mall! Remember what I said earlier, your feet take at least 5000 steps a day! Comfortable fitting shoes that support your body weight is essential, not an option!
- Wear the right shoes for the job – I remember when cross-trainer shoes became the fad back in the 80’s. I think duo-sport athlete Bo Jackson (remember him???!!) was the Nike athlete that was used to promote them. These days, shoe technology is pretty advanced such that cross-trainers are a decent choice. But if you are more than the occasional athlete, you really need to wear shoes specific to your activity or sport. They were designed with a specific purpose in mind and to give you optimal biomechanical support.
- Consider a shoe insert if you have chronic foot or leg problems. Start with a less expensive over-the-counter option from Shoppers Drug Mart or even Costco has some neat Dr. Scholl’s orthotics. If that doesn’t help, consider a custom made pair of orthotics which are specific to your foot shape, function and problem. Keep in mind, that not everyone needs orthotics. Your foot problem can often be alleviated by correcting muscle imbalances in the lower extremity.
- Stretch, Strengthen & Balance – if you are serious about being proactive with foot, ankle and lower leg health, you really need to address all three of these. Stretch and massage the plantar fascia, achilles tendon, calf muscle and shin muscle. Strengthen the inverter, everter, plantar flexor and dorsiflexor muscles of the ankle joint as well as the deep muscles of the foot. Work on balance and proprioception exercises that affect the foot and ankle. These may sound unusual or confusing but you can often find some good videos on Youtube that demonstrate how to do them. In fact, I will be producing some soon on our own Youtube channel so stay tuned. Otherwise, it’s definitely good to consult your local chiropractor or physiotherapist for advice on this!
Many of your body’s aches, pains and injuries can be prevented and alleviated on your own but you have to have the discipline to do it! Review and implement the tips I’ve presented today and in previous Self-Defense blog entries and you should find your body will feel healthier and be less painful.
If you have any questions feel free to call us here at Meridian Wellness or drop an email to me at email@example.com!
Your friendly, Richmond Hill chiropractor,