3 Ways to Reduce Your Foot Pain Right Now
You may not know it but you are walking at least 2 miles everyday, and will eventually make your way around the Earth a total of 3 times (75,000 miles) within your own lifetime. With your feet enduring an average of 4,000-6,000 steps per day it should be no surprise that foot pain is one of the most common health related issues in our society. In fact, at least 75% of Americans will experience some form of foot pain in their lifetime, with 25% of them ending up consulting a physical therapist due to their foot pain. As the foundation of your body, your feet can have complete control over your daily life and routine. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize your foot pain in efforts of optimizing your overall health and taking your life back.
Your unique feet consist of a complex set of 26 bones, 33 joints, 100 plus ligaments, and approximately 20 muscles, all working together to allow us to walk, run, and simply stand upright. This complex system of flexible bones, joints, muscles and soft tissue structures must act in unison in order for you to take pain and resist free steps. This is because the foot acts as a rigid lever during the push off and heel strike phases of the gait (walking cycle) while absorbing the shock from the ground to your body.
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 your 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 your ankle is not flexible enough, it can increase the force that your foot is forced to absorb. This can also cause you knee, hip and back pain if your ankle is stiff for a long period of time. Your ankle can be rigid for a number of reasons including poor footwear, previous injury, or repetitive activity.
One of the best ways to test your 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 your dorsiflexion check out this video:
2. Strengthen Your Feet
Your 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 your 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
Your muscles in the hip are responsible for controlling the lower extremity during the gait cycle. Weak hips will result in poor control of your foot and ankle complex. Over a period of time, this can cause you foot pain and issues such as plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, and arthritis. Here are some of my favorite hip strengthening exercise for your foot pain relief.
Proper footwear is also one of the biggest factors that can affect your 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, Transform Rehabilitation would be honored to take you in. All you have to do is send us a comment or give us a call and we will provide you with our best assistance to finally put your foot pain to an end and take control over your life again, with guaranteed personal care and connections.