Three Ways To Save Your Feet
When most of us think about trouble spots that affect our paddling, our minds typically turn to the back, shoulders and hips. Maybe the triceps and wrists if we're going to get really adventurous with our mobility work. But honestly, how often do you pay your feet any attention?
Despite the foot getting the heave-ho, it's actually one of the most crucial elements in correct positioning, effective stroke, and preventing leg, hip and even back injuries. Though they're relatively small, your feet contain more than a third of the bones in your body. They're a complex system that is also a web of muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia. If just one strand gets tight, the whole mechanism can stop working correctly. The results? Plantar fasciitis and Achilles strains and tears, collapsed arches and knees and an improper pelvis to lumbar spine relationship that causes lower back issues (see the diagram below).
Luckily help is at hand. Here are our top-three tips for saving your feet:
Stop Standing Like a Duck or a Pigeon
Are you a duck or a pigeon? Didn't think so. Then why are you standing, both on dry land and on your board, with your feet ducked out or pigeon-toed in? When you stand, walk, run, step, jump or paddle, you need to keep your feet neutral – i.e. pointing straight ahead. This aligns your entire leg correctly and helps keep your center of mass, well, centered. It also helps if you screw your feet into the ground as part of a standing bracing sequence that encourages proper posture. Try it with bare feet: while keeping your feet straight, spin them to the outside enough to create tension. See how it creates more of an arch? This is how your feet should be. In addition to restoring a correct, stabilizing arch, this also creates torque at the hip, with adds further stability and ensures your pelvis is set in the correct position in relation to your lower back. Also apply this tip to your stance on your board.
Embrace the Lacrosse Ball Foot Smash
If you're into mobility work, chances are you hit your quads, shoulders and back. Why? Because it feeds slack into the system, restores slide and glide in soft tissues and improves range of motion. So, why not give your feet some love? After all, they only carry you for thousands of steps and strokes a day. At least every couple of days, take a lacrosse or tennis ball and roll it all over the underside of each foot for two minutes. You'll free up your soft tissues and undo all that damage you've spent so much time inflicting.
Ditch the Flip-Flops and Heeled Shoes
As much as we love them, flip-flops are the enemy of functional feet. Why? Because they require you to keep ligaments and tendons under tension to hold them on your feet. As for heeled shoes, they tilt you forward, encouraging bad posture. Healed shoes also shorten your heel cord all the time, which leads to Achilles injuries and tugs on your plantar fascia. Go with flat shoes instead and go barefoot on the beach and around the house instead.