The feet are literally the foundation of our structure and their mechanics are very important for postural balance.
The feet with their 26 bones, 107 ligaments, 33 joints and 19 muscles - each - are probably some of the most amazing mechanical structures in our bodies.
The way that all these structures are arranged and interlinked allow your feet to change from soft shock-absorbing structures, when you land on your heel - into rigid structures, when you shift the weight onto the front of your feet allowing the best propulsion to the other foot. These two states of the feet - pronation and supination - and the ability to change effectively between them are essential for the normal use of the feet in walking.
However, good walking - and running - action is also reliant on the other joints of the legs - and the low back - and in our assessments we look at all of them and consider how they may affect each other.
Therefore, the way your foot works as a marvelous mechanical structure, the way it works with the other joints of the lower body - and the way they all support you with each step you take, can all have a large impact on joints higher up in the body, causing pain and discomfort and potentially excess wear and tear.
What do we do about it?
The joints and muscles in the feet respond equally well to massage, mobilisation, manipulation and exercise and all of these can be utilised to help restore better mechanics to them and the rest of the body as a result. An extensive whole-body assessment will form the basis for what interventions are chosen to make you use your feet better and intern your body on top of them.
What are orthotics?
Sometimes the feet can no longer withstand the constant stress of the weight of the body on top of them and this is when insoles or orthotics are used. Orthotics are inserts that comfortably fit into shoes. They are designed to support and improve the function of the feet. We prescribe orthotics to people to help with foot or lower limb problems or to athletes to help maximise performance during sport. Sometimes, they are prescribed as a temporary measure and may be changed on a regular basis as the condition of the feet change. At other times they are prescribed like glasses: to compensate for weakness or less than optimal anatomy in the feet.
How about my shoes?
The choice of shoes is important and we often advise on this as part of the foot and function assessments. Running shoes are particularly relevant, but the shoes you spend the whole day at work in can seriously influence your health too. Orthotics are most effective in shoes that are constructed well, fit properly and are in good condition.
What is a Foot & Function assessment?
The assessment looks at the shape of the feet, the function of the joints in them as well as those of the rest of the leg. Often we then use a treadmill and a pressure sensitive gait system where we assess a person's walking in great detail and relate the findings to the rest of the examination: These help us evaluate the foot function and determine where the symptoms experienced are related to faulty mechanics of walking. Using this information together with other clinical tests we can determine your need for exercises, orthotics or other interventions relating to your gait pattern.
Exercises, off-the-shelf insoles or custom-made orthotics from a lab in Canada are some of the options available and often we will use these in combination to speed up the progress.