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Feet: "Takes More Than A Leg To Stand On" Part II

Written by: 
Colleen Bridges, M. Ed., NSCA-CPT, Parkinson’s Fitness Specialist
Cindy Nyquist, LPTA, ATC, Rock Steady Boxing Certified  
Betsy Lerner, MA , Parkinson’s Fitness Specialist and Rock Steady Boxing Certified

Feet! We all have a pair and we use them all day, every day! As a matter of fact, your feet have 250,000 (yep, you read that correctly) SWEAT glands! No wonder I had the stinkiest feet in middle school! Ha!

Now that you know another crazy tidbit about Colleen, let’s review:

You have 26 bones, 29 muscles, 30 ligaments and 100+ tendons in each foot that are responsible for grounding you, absorbing shock, balancing you, and  transporting you wherever you need to go. Additionally, your feet play a critical role in the overall “chain” of movement and a healthy lifestyle. Feet can signal a medical professional to other health related problems such as diabetes, liver failure, hypothyroidism, iron deficiency, gout, peripheral arterial disease and neurological diseases.

From the time you rise to the time you go to sleep, your feet are busy! On a daily basis, your feet help you get out of bed, walk, balance while dressing (seated or standing), kick the ball with your grandkids, and SO much more! You get the picture, your feet get it going!! (No pun intended). 

But, did you know there is a delicate neuro-connection between the feet and the brain? The area of the brain called the Cerebellum, is responsible for a number of functions including motor skills such as walking, balance, coordination, and posture. The brain communicates with your feet via the sensory nervous system which is a complex system of nerves with 7,000 nerve endings in the heel alone.

In fact, the brain power needed to process all the sensory information from your feet uses more of your sensory cortex than your entire torso. That means your feet are extremely sensitive to touch, pressure, temperature and pain. When you take a step, your muscles receive a message from your brain delivered by motor neurons in the spine. These motor neurons send a signal that travels from the spine to the muscles by way of a long, thin extension of the motor neuron called an Axon allowing you to walk.

Once your foot strikes, it exerts a force on the ground. The ground returns with an equal force but pointed in the opposite direction. It is this frictional force that propels you forward. To continue moving forward, you also need strength, balance, sensation and coordination.

Now, our focus may be on FEET but walking is a team effort! Below is a list of all the muscles/joints involved in walking. THIS is why I stress the importance of strong feet and why we perform strength and balance exercises that improve proprioception, agility, coordination in EVERY class!  I want your feet to be prepared to handle the movement of life, then the “chain” (foot to hip/back/knee) will function at its best. 

The physics, science and biomechanics behind walking may boggle the mind but…the health benefits of having healthy, strong feet are easy to understand! Today, take 5-10 minutes to do heel lifts, toe lifts, foot circles, write the alphabet and walk! 

Foot-provides traction for movement, absorbs shock and distributes forces, provides neurofeedback 

Ankle-helps foot flatten out smoothly then pulls the foot up to propel forward

Internal/External Obliques- (side of torso) controls trunk

Hip Flexor- lifts leg to swing forward

Quadriceps- (thigh) extends your knee

Tibialis Anterior- (side of lower leg) assists in lifting toes up for next step

Calf Muscles- assists in forward motion

Hamstrings- (back of leg) bend back leg knee, extend the hip

Gluteus Maximus- works with Hamstring to extend the hip of back leg during stride

Tensor Fasciae Latae- assists in keeping pelvis balanced while walking

Erector Spinae (back muscle) works with other back muscles (Multifidus, Transverse Abdominals, Diaphragm) to control trunk

Foot- 26 bones, 29 muscles, 30 ligaments and 100+ tendons in each foot 

Ankle- (3 main bones) Tibia, Fibula and Talus

Hip- Femur and Pelvis

Knee- Tibia, Femur, Patella

In closing, your quality of life is important! On average most people walk 5,000 steps a day which is the equivalent of 2.5 miles. My goal is to make sure your feet are prepared for the movement of life! Healthy, strong feet will propel you into tomorrow!

Let’s go, Fighters!

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