3 Ways to Reduce Your Foot Pain Right Now
Foot pain is one of the most common health related issues in today’s society. Over 75% of Americans will experience foot problems at one time or another in their lives. With the average adult taking 4,000-6,000 steps per day it is no wonder why the feet are susceptible to damage and pain. The average human will walk about 100,000 miles in a lifetime, so it is imperative to maintain optimal foot health.
The foot is very unique because it must act as a rigid lever during the push off and heel strike phases of gait while also acting as a flexible, shock absorber during the midstance, and foot-flat portion of gait. To accomplish this, a complex set of 26 bones, 33 joints, over 100 ligaments, and approximately 20 muscles needs to act in unison in order to control each step you take. As a physical therapist, I often use the tree example. A tall tree requires strong roots to stay upright for a long period of time, but must also be flexible to withstand strong winds. Think of your foot as the roots to the tree.
What are the 3 things you can do right now to reduce your foot pain?
- Improve Ankle Dorsiflexion
Dorsiflexion is the action of raising the foot upwards towards the shin. It refers to the flexion of the foot in the dorsal, or upward direction. Ankle flexibility plays a large role in the forces that are generated through the lower extremity during the normal gait cycle. If the ankle is not flexible enough, it can increase the force that the foot is forced to absorb. This can also cause knee, hip and back pain if the ankle is stiff for a long period of time. The ankle can be rigid for a number of reasons including poor footwear, previous injury, or repetitive activity.
One of the best ways to test ankle dorsiflexion is the knee to wall test.
- Find a wall and stand facing it
- Place the toes of your right leg 5 inches from the wall, and take half a step back with your left leg
- Push your right knee forwards to touch the wall, checking that you are keeping your hips facing forwards and heel on the ground
- If you are unable to touch the wall with your knee, your right ankle likely lacks dorsiflexion
- Repeat with the left leg
To improve dorsiflexion check out this video:
2. Strengthen Your Feet
The feet are designed to withstand the high forces related to ambulation and functional activity, so it makes sense to strengthen them. Imagine how weak your hands would be if they were constantly wrapped in mittens. This is essentially what we do to our feet. One of the best ways to strengthen your feet is to simple walk around barefoot more often. If you do not often spend time barefoot, start slow and gradually increase your barefoot time each day.
Another way to improve foot strength:
Try Towel Scrunches
In a staggered position, stand on a towel and scrunch your toes as if you were trying to grab the towel. Hold the scrunch for 10 seconds and do 10 repetitions. Then switch feet to perform on the other side.
3. Improve Hip Strength
The muscles in the hip are responsible for controlling the lower extremity during the gait cycle. Weak hips will result in poor control of the foot and ankle complex. Over a period of time, this can cause foot pain and issues such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and arthritis. Here are some of my favorite hip strengthening exercise for foot pain relief.
Proper footwear is also one of the biggest factors that can affect foot pain and ability to perform functional activity. Stay tuned for our proper footwear post.
These exercises are a good stepping stone to reducing your foot pain but they may not completely solve your issues. If you continue to have foot pain or have had pain for a long period of time, seek the advice of a physical therapist in your area. If you are in the Lehigh Valley, send us a comment and we will be in touch to put you in the right direction to finally get rid of your foot pain and get back to your normal activity.