The Natural Foot: Loosing Faith in Instincts, Movement and Intuitive Sensation

Blogger’s Note:  This entry was inspired by the preposterous, though serious notion we (as humans) had "evolved" ourselves away from needing a Plantaris Muscle.  The plantaris muscle is used by animals in gripping and manipulating objects with their feet – something you see within primates that use their feet as well as their hands.  Humans have this muscle as well.  It is ancient and primordial, but now so underdeveloped it is often surgically removed for reconstruction in other parts of the body...yikes!  Talk about ignoring the 'gait gestalt' with crippling effect. . .


The title was inspired by Bernadette Noll's comment on:  In GPS Era, Map Reading Skills a Lost Art "It is the disconnect to our own surroundings that I find so hard to witness. Real landmarks are ignored in favor of an electronic screen.  And it seems just one more way for people to lose faith in their own instinct and intuition."


The natural, primordial foot.  Is there such a thing?

"Human behavior is interwoven deeply with nature's rhythms. The natural world underlies all of human perception and interaction: cultural imperatives, economic systems, religious traditions and other governance organizations.  Human form overlays primordial pulse and flow.  When these patterns skew from nature, people and societies become ill and entire species are threatened or vanish."  Randy Eady

The reality of modern interpretation is even less appealing when one takes a close look at natural and unnatural feet.
In 1905, there was a study done that compared the feet of the habitually barefoot versus those wearing shoes.  Below is a comparison picture.  On the right is a picture from a habitually barefoot person in that '05 study.  The barefoot picture on the left is from my colleague's 3-year old, who barely wears shoes.




You can see the pictures are very similar.  Significantly, and naturally, there is width at the ball of the foot, and there's only a slight downward angle from the big toe to the little toe.






 Take a peek at the shod pictures from the 1905 study below.



Here you spot how narrow the ball of the foot has become.  There is also a severe downward angle from the big toe to the little toe.  This skew away from a natural angle, reflects up to knee, hip and lower back to instigate additional problems.




Bottomline (pun intended):  be careful where and how you tread, my friend: the feet are just about the worst things you want to mess with (if you want to stay painlessly mobile and primordially engaged with nature):. Besides:  flexible, grappling feet actually bestow certain advantages as those "footies" are the third most innervated area on the body!


Good exercises to Keep the Feet Flexible
How to make the Best of Your Feet ~~ Naturally
1) Avoid ‘shoe-induced neuropathy’ ~~ Wear Minimalist style shoes.
The soles of your feet are one of the most nerve-rich parts of your body. The three most highly innervated parts of your body are your hands, your face (particulary the lips) and your feet. What going on down there?  The feet (when bare) are the only part of your body (other than your lungs) that is in constant contact with your environment.  With over 100,000 nerve endings per foot, tactile feedback from the soles of your feet provide a wealth of information to your brain about the ground upon which you tread. Unfortunately, most footwear eliminates sensory feedback.

2)  Speaking of lungs ~  let your feet breath too. The soles of your feet have a ‘gi~normous’ number of sweat glands. In fact, the three ‘sweatiest’ parts of your body are your scalp, your hands and your feet.  Although rich in sweat glands, these parts of your body rarely sweat enough to produce dripping sweat; that only occurs under extremely hot conditions or during vigorous exercise. But these glands need to breath so keep it loose down there.

3) Move on Varied Terrain (especially in bare feet).  In China and rural Japan, (where a lot of focus is on moisture and the feet) much time is spent in physical activities outdoors barefoot:  in the parks, along beaches, and in the mountains.  These varied conditions improve balance and stability to deeper levels than the uniform flat surfaces we usually spend our days.

4) Stretch and exercise those little doggies. Though, seemingly for bunions:  this site has excellent foot exercises to keep “your toes as flexible as possible”

In addition, for young children, picking up and moving things around with nimble toes is a simple, healthy exercise.  As is having a child raise one foot and spell their name in the air (as if they were holding a paint brush between their toes) and "writing" to 10 with the same procedure on the other foot.  Alternate each foot’s task and just do these alphabet and counting games a few times a week and you’ll witness improvement in foot flexibility and balance.

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Comment by Randy Eady on June 29, 2011 at 6:12am

Interesting article in Sierra that dovetails with this Blog.  See:

Silent Running

A stroll through the woods can inspire, but to experience nature as your fleet-footed ancestors did, lose the clunky shoes ~~

"...Alva Noe, the contemporary philosopher, has argued that consciousness isn't just a state of mind residing in the brain; it encompasses our whole body, our ongoing sensory interaction with the world."

~~ quote from the article really informs current Foot Whisperin' work with mal-adapted feet ~~

"I enjoy walking, and of course I see more and think more at a slower pace--count more flower petals, as it were.  But I feel vital and alive when I run.  Not that it's easy, or easy on the body. By my late 20s, I had shin splints and patella-femoral syndrome, patellar tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.  I bought thousand-dollar custom orthotics on the advice of a doctor who decided I had severe biomechanical problems in the form of weak arches and excessive pronation. Running-shop sales clerks would send me home with expensive "motion-control" running shoes: bootlike sneakers with extra padding under the heel.  But the injuries only got worse, so I gave up.  I figured I just wasn't meant to run. . ."
Comment by Suz Lipman on March 18, 2011 at 8:04am
Hi Randy. This is a wonderful post and I love that it was inspired by our earlier discussion about losing touch - figuratively and literally - with our surroundings. Thank you for giving us some practical exercises as well. This is an important post.

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