Leonardi Da Vinci described the human foot as “a masterpiece of engineering and a work of Art.”
The feet are complex structures that bear the weight of the body and enable movement and balance. Standing, walking, jumping , running, and dancing are just some examples of activities that require effectively functioning feet!
The foot, incredibly has 26 bones, and 33 joints! Happy, healthy joints require strong muscles to support and move them. 29 muscles are involved in moving and stabilising the foot. 10 of these muscles originate from the leg, crossing the ankle joint to help with foot function, whereas the other 19 muscles originate from within the foot itself: 19 muscles in the foot alone!
Any kind of niggle can impact on the foot effectively performing its function and these niggles can develop into more debilitating pain, having significant impact on ability to participate in daily activities, fitness and health. Unlike some other areas of the body, it can be hard to rest the foot to avoid the pain. While outright rest can resolve the pain in the short term, it is often not the best long term remedy.
The foot may be one of the most neglected areas to receive exercise therapy to address pain and dysfunction, but exercise therapy is fundamental for resolving most musculoskeletal foot conditions. The foot’s function is also reliant on the structure and function, of the rest of the leg pelvis and trunk and these areas will need to be assessed and potentially strengthened also to assist with foot problems.
The arrival of Spring brings fairer weather, and longer days. The exercise bug takes hold and more people are out walking and running. Thongs and sandals are donned, or bare feet might be the go; all which tend to be less supportive options for the foot. Now is time to think of how "game" fit your feet are for Spring and Summer.
If the mobility of the joints is not supple enough to contour to the terrain, and/or if the muscles are not strong enough to offer adequate support, we may be asking more of our feet than they have the capacity to provide.
A common presenting problem is plantar heel pain. This is pain on the undersurface of the heel.
The most common cause for this is changes in the plantar fascia, which is a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. This plays a role in supporting the arch of the foot, and assists with shock absorbance and movement.
Pain in the early stages presents on first steps in the morning. As it progresses, there may also be pain with walking after prolonged sitting, and then pain levels may increase later in the day. This plantar heel pain, known as plantar fasciopathy, can be seen across many age groups. In particular it is seen more commonly in the middle aged population, females, and those who are overweight. It is also seen in runners , especially those who run high volumes. There may be accompanying stiffness and weakness around the lower leg and foot.
Another example of foot pain is cuboid syndrome. This is irritation around the cuboid bone in the outer aspect of the mid foot. It causes pain in that region, and can radiate down towards the 4th and 5th toes. There is often sharp pain with walking, particularly the initial phase of raising your heel off the ground. It is frequently associated with stiffness in surrounding foot joints and weakness and/or tightness through the muscles along the side of the ankle.
Physiotherapists assess and treat feet, and determine a management approach to help improve your symptoms and function assisting you to spring into Summer with happier feet .