One out of every four people over 65 will lose balance and fall down this year. Three million will end up in the emergency department; 30,000 will suffer hip fractures and head injuries that are so bad they die from them.
For someone in their 80s, a hip fracture is a near death sentence. This is no small matter.
Keeping upright is clearly an important issue.
Yet according to a medical expert, “with just a little bit of regular maintenance and consideration, millions of people could be saved from future problems.”
He’s talking about exercising our feet.
Core Stability is Not Just For the Tummy
Dr. Ralph Rogers, a UK Consultant in Regenerative Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, believes “the feet are a neglected part of the body.”
He compares them to the foundation of a building that provides stability and support for the whole structure. If the foundation is weak the building will collapse. “The same happens with your feet,” he says.
The big toe, little toe and heel are similar to the three points of a tripod. When flat on the ground they hold the ankles, knees and hips in alignment. But if the tripod is unbalanced, as Dr. Rogers explains, “it creates dysfunctional movement and can lead to hip, back, neck pain and can even be the cause of headaches.”
In 2015, Professor Patrick McKeon from Ithaca College, New York, together with colleagues from Harvard and the Universities of Utah and Virginia, introduced the foot core system to focus on an aspect of the feet that’s neglected by clinicians.
Core stability brings to mind people training their abdominal muscles to enhance balance and stability, promote good posture and prevent falls and injuries.
Yet according to Prof. McKeon, “The muscles in the foot behave in the same way.”
The eleven “intrinsic” muscles in each foot provide information about where the body is in space and act as motion detectors, making small corrections so we keep stable and balanced.
Without this information, the larger muscles over-compensate and are strained until they no longer function normally. This puts pressure on tendons, bones and ligaments, increasing the risk of injury.
According to Matt Ferguson, a co-inventor of a foot strengthening device, the intrinsic muscles aren’t just weak, they’re dormant in some people. He believes the use of devices to correct biomechanical foot issues are responsible. He also points the finger of blame towards rigid shoes which lead to people not using their foot muscles.
Professor McKeon agrees, although he accepts that foot devices and supportive footwear are sometimes needed.
His solution is to develop these small foot muscles so they are responsive to making the necessary corrections. This will greatly help to keep people on their feet. And, you’ll be pleased to hear, the two methods he suggests for achieving this are extremely simple.
The first is to walk barefoot. The more barefoot walking people engage in the healthier the feet will be. But it’s important to do it safely.
The other exercise is called “foot doming.” It’s a very small motion that squeezes the ball of the foot towards the heel, so the front of the foot moves back a little and the arch is raised. It can be performed seated or standing.
You can watch Professor McKeon perform foot doming on a very short — less than a minute — video by going to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzqKOrmE1xs
Aim for 20 consecutive “domes,” two or three times daily.
He also claims this exercise has achieved positive results for people suffering ankle sprains, shin splints, and the heel pain disorder, plantar fasciitis.