We usually don’t give our feet much thought, unless they’re hurting. (Or we’re getting a new pair of shoes or a pedicure perhaps.) But what I’ve noticed is that, whether you’re a pro athlete or work behind a desk, whether you walk a lot, drive a lot or spend your time on the couch, the feet get tight. And as we age, the toes often start curling in, which isn’t really the toes curling in. What actually happens is that the foot muscles get tight and pull the toes toward the heel.
Here’s the story of the foot in a nutshell. Basically there are 3 pieces: the heel, the middle part of the foot or arch, and the toes or the toe box. When we feel pain and discomfort in any of these areas, tightness of the plantar muscle is generally to blame. This muscle is completely dominant in the foot, attaching at the heel, covering the whole bottom of the foot and spreading out to every toe. Plantar fasciitis is a condition that results from an insult to the plantar muscle and painful feet are often given this diagnosis.
What’s unique about the foot is that it can tighten up and lock up and still be extremely functional. We often don’t realize how tight the feet really are until we try to loosen them up. If a knee or a hip were that tight and immobile, it would be nearly impossible to walk. Resolving a tight foot can also go a long way to resolving calf and ankle problem as this tightness may be the invisible, underlying cause of the problem.
It’s a fact of life: feet get tight. And then people bunch up their feet. In the same way that some elevate their shoulders, others clench their feet. Or sit with their toes pointed down and the heels up. Am I talking about you? Check out your feet now and find out.
And of course, the feet are at the very end of the circulatory pump, so the pressure that goes into the vascular part of the feet is the least of anywhere in the body. It’s safe to say that most people over 60 who are not very active get low grade swelling in the feet. So with this population, taking care of the feet is important for promoting circulation as well as relieving muscle and nerve tension.
The good news is we can drastically change how our feet feel by doing some very simple self-massage. Rolling a tennis ball under the foot is an excellent way to relieve muscle tension. SKLZ also makes a great product where you can roll both feet at the same time. (In our next article we’ll give you a video demonstration of self-massage for the feet so stay tuned!)
What stood out for me the most, when I was working with pro Basketball player, Jared Dudley, of the Phoenix Suns, was that in just 3 months his feet went from being really tight and locked up to being free and feeling great. It was self-massage with the tennis ball that did the trick. And his job is really demanding on his feet. Imagine what it could do with yours.
It’s that simple. For most of us, taking care of the feet is as easy as standing and rolling on a tennis ball. Try it out. Your level of sensitivity is an indication of how much you need the massage. The idea is that you want to roll on the ball until you can no longer find any areas that are sore or tight. You will feel better forever with feet that are happy and free.