The Daily Mail did a whole feature (June 19th) entitled; ‘ How the secrets to a longer and healthier life is at your feet’, which is what podiatrists have been trying to convey for years. Your feet are so important to your quality of life. A simple blister can result in a limp and lead to having to consider what to wear on your feet or choice of activity. Luckily blisters subside, but imagine if they didn’t, that you had foot pain that caused you limp daily, it would have a real impact on your life.

It is not until people get a foot issue they begin to value their feet, but often once a problem has subsided like a twisted ankle, complacency sets back in. Back to wearing those high heels or over-soft unsupportive Skechers. Feet are integral to well-being and more care and attention should be given to them. Just as we work out the body we should be working out the feet, keeping their ‘core muscles’ strong. Physios and fitness experts talk about ‘core stability’ and ‘core’ muscles, referring to the muscle groups in the abdomen and pelvis which help to keep the body straight and protect the back, but the feet have them too doing a similar function.

As a podiatry student it took ages to learn the function of all the muscles in the foot. They were arranged in layers, and each one had a specific origin and insertion, plus a complicated name! A weakness or injury to any one of them particularly the larger muscles leads to an intrinsic disfunction. Also, the strength and condition of supporting and stabilising ligaments from the foot to the leg is also extremely important in stability and function.

When a patient has a foot injury the neuromuscular sensory feedback to the brain can be affected. Muscles don’t fire when required to perform a function at the right time, as the special sensors in the muscles called proprioceptors are compromised. It is then crucial to work on building up strength in the ‘core’ muscles to improve proprioception, which in turn improves stability. If no attention is paid to good rehabilitation, then potential deformities, dysfunction and consequent long-term pain can result.

It is not always an injury that can lead to a problem, but an insidious issue like poor foot posture, positioning. A lowering of the arch/instep can have a big impact on foot functioning with biomechanical repercussions up the leg into the hips and lower back. Major ligaments in the foot can become stretched and could eventually just ‘give-way’ with surgery being required. The bunion is a classic case of this, as is Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction (PTTD). PTTD is when one of the major tendons responsible in holding up the medial arch gets weaker to allow the arch to flatten.

If we keep the foot stronger with working-out it’s core muscles, many debilitating foot related conditions could be avoided. A podiatrist is the expert in understanding foot function with a greater expertise on this area of preventative medicine and rehabilitation than other medical practitioners. A podiatrist can undertake a biomechanical assessment, which is a detailed and thorough examination, focusing on foot posture, joint function, muscle strength, proprioceptive feedback. This isn’t isolated just to the foot, but to the alignment of the knee, hips and back. We assess how the foot will have an impact up the kinetic chain of movement in the leg or vice versa downwards to the foot.

How a podiatrist can make a positive impact is to prescribe corrective and supportive orthotic insoles, specific to an individual’s biomechanical requirements. These can have either a preventative or rehabilitative role, or both.  More simply we can advise on core foot muscle exercises and general foot health education. Don’t wait until the horse has bolted or becomes lame. Not worth thinking about. Act now for a ‘longer and healthier life’.

To read more on the Daily Mail article go to:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5857631/How-secret-longer-life-feet.html