Healthy Steps – The Foot Is Our Body’s Main Source Of Support

Why is it that when our feet hurt our whole body hurts? Think about it. The foot is our body’s main source of support. With 26 bones, 11 muscles, and 7,000 nerve endings, it deserves the same wellness considerations as the rest of our body, and yet it is an area that is often neglected until we start to experience problems–and nearly half of the U.S. population will at some point in their lives.

Following are some things you can do that can make a difference between tired, aching feet and happy, feel-good feet.

Wear The Correct Shoes And Check The Size Regularly. Despite their popularity, flip-flops were never designed to be worn as an all-day work shoe. Even as part of the latest trend, people should use caution about wearing them for hours at a time on cement and hard surfaces. Flip-flops are beach shoes, meant to be worn to protect the soles of our feet while walking on a surface like sand. They offer no arch support and no protection for your feet. If you want to wear a sandal to work, experts say something like a Birkenstock or Chaco, that offers some support, is a much better choice.

In place of flip-flops, another good choice is one of many rubber clog options now available. Dr. John Giurini of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston says this type of clog has features that he recommends people look for in all their shoes, including a wide toe box so toes aren’t squeezed and pressured, buildup in the arch for more support, a deep heel well, and a strap or closed back to keep the heel and ankle supported and aligned.

“Crocs may be trendy, but they are not as supportive as a running shoe,” Giurini says. “It’s not the type of shoe I would spend all day in or go on long walks with or go shopping in the mall with. I would limit the amount of time I spent in it, but certainly, this is a step up from wearing a flip-flop or sandal and doing those same activities.”

Pamper your feet. Get a pedicure from a professional at least once a month. Good nail care can help prevent future foot problems, as well as help you keep an eye out for issues, like the start of a nail fungus, a callus, or a blister. The leg and foot massage portion of the pedicure feels great and will relax not just your feet, but your whole body. To pamper your feet at home, try a little at-home foot spa. (See At Home Foot Spa, below.)

Stretch and strengthen. Most of us will log about 1,000 miles each year on our feet. Because of this, it is important to stretch the muscles in the foot, ankle, and arch. An effective way to stretch the bottom of the foot is with a tennis ball. While sitting and watching TV or even while working on the computer, roll a tennis ball along the bottom of your foot from heel to toes, applying medium to deep pressure as you go. Another good stretch is to grab all of the toes on one foot with your thumb on the bottom and the rest of your fingers on the top and stretch by pulling toes up toward your knee and then curling them down toward the floor. (Also see Reflexology Routine, on page 21.)

Ask your therapist for help. Of course, one of the best resources for you and your feet is your massage therapist. Next time you’re scheduled for a massage, be sure to ask your practitioner for a little extra attention to your feet. A professional’s trained touch can do wonders for aching feet.
Your feet work harder for you than almost any other part of your body. Keep them happy and healthy and they will keep you wanting to dance the night away.

By Shelley Sheets, a writer, massage therapist, and wellness coach. She has been in the health and wellness business for more than 20 years and is currently doing massage at Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado. Contact her at
Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Spring/Summer 2008. Copyright 2008. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.


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