Nov 20 2014

Out of Sight, No Longer Out of Mind

Now that we are aware of our posterior chain, let’s break it down into two halves: upper & lower.  For everyone from the office worker to the technician on the operating floor, foot and ankle pain can side-line you in a second.

Wearing dress shoes for prolonged periods put our ankles in a slight to moderate plantar flexed position (toes pointed down) due to their heel height; heel height is typically measured in millimeters for men and inches for women. Over time, this results in a shortened Achilles tendon and calf mucle  which can negatively affect our balance.   This affects you whether you sit at a desk all day or are wearing steel toe safety shoes, and can lead to discomfort and injury.

This imbalance can lead to a domino effect impacting our gait (movement while walking) which can lead to other muscle imbalances and/or injuries due to joints becoming misaligned and not functioning together properly.  A chain reaction of potentially harmful events wreaking havoc on our bodies from head to toe just so we can wear those new shoes everyone has been raving about... ridiculous isn’t it?!  Want to have your cake and eat it too? Or in this case,  wear those hot new shoes and not have your knees, hips and low back hate you? 

Here are some ways to stretch and strengthen the foot and ankle complex.  First, we need to make sure we have good ROM (Range of Motion), three stretches designed to reach your desired mobility.  Ideally one will need to complete two rounds of each stretch; we all have three minutes to spare in order to get our stretch on! 

1.       Straight leg wall stretch:

Place both hands on a wall with arms extended

Lean against wall with one leg bent forward and the other extended behind with knee straight and foot pointing forward

Push the rear heal to the floor and slightly move hips forward until comfortable tension is felt, hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat for the opposite leg. 
standing calf 4

2.       Towel straight leg calf stretch:

Completed by sitting on the floor and placing a towel or band under the ball of the foot while holding each end of towel in hands 

Pull the towel until a comfortable tension is felt in the back of the calf and hold for 20-30 seconds for each side
Towel stretch

3.       Step straight leg calf stretch:

Position toes and balls of feet on stair step or other elevated surface with arches and heels extending off.

Use railing or wall for balance and knees straight, shift body weight to one foot and let your body weight provide necessary resistance for stretch

Repeat for each side, holding for 20-30 seconds. 
Stair stretch

Now that we are loose and limber, it is time to focus on strengthening our ankles and feet. There are a number of things that can be done in order to strengthen the foot and ankle complex.  Heel/Toe walks are just as they sound, you walk on your tip-toes for 10 to 20 ft. or the length of a room and the same for your heels. This is done at a slower pace, concentrating on only making contact with the ground with either the toes or the heels of your feet. You may feel silly or awkward, but it is a great for the feet, and is a great part of a dynamic warmup! Next you can run or walk in soft sand; the ever-changing surface of the sand will give your feet and ankles quite the challenge.  If you aren’t lucky enough to have beach-front access and you don’t have a sandbox for the kids out back, you can utilize an item that almost all of us have in our homes.  Grab that couch cushion and toss it on the floor, stand on it for 60 seconds, one leg at a time.  Once this no longer proves to be a challenge, close your eyes and see how long you can hold your one-leg stance.  Your goal is at least 60 seconds for each foot.

These are a few ideas to help mobilize and strengthen the part of our body responsible for stability, locomotion and alignment up and down the chain.  This is not by any means a comprehensive lesson of the foot and ankle, or a rehabilitation guide.  My goal is to simply shed some light on a few simple stretches that may help you minimize pain and discomfort in your daily routine, and hopefully improve performance of whatever weekend warrior activity you are engaged in.

If you are seeing these types of issues at your place of work, there are workplace solutions to keep you on your feet This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..