Flat Feet- What’s the Story?

BY ANNETTE VERPILLOT AUG 25, 2019

The feet help everybody feel the world. Think of how warm sand caressed your soles the last time you walked on a beach, or how your gait changed when you stepped barefoot on gravel or hot cement.

Your feet are among the most nerve-rich parts of your body because the ability to sense the ground is a vital aspect of survival. Your brain needs to know where you stand to keep you upright when you move in all directions and protect you from injury.

Scientists estimate that 100,000 to 200,000 receptors in the sole of each foot supply this information. A study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology found that these receptors respond to vibrations and frequencies.

The sensory feedback of feet remains out of the mainstream health discourse despite being a critical component of posture and movement. This article explores the neurology of the feet to help readers grasp its value in chronic pain resolution and performance optimization.

Imagine you go for a walk outside and feel a pebble in your shoe. The rock seems insignificant at first, so you continue your stroll, unbothered. Your gait changes a few moments later to avoid feeling it, as every step seems to sharpen its edges. You decide to remove your shoes and shake the pebble out, at last, unable to withstand the pokes anymore.

Feedback from the skin of your feet is your brain’s primary source of input to know where you are relative to the ground. This communication is crucial to stay balanced on the various sorts of surfaces and keep the body upright when you move.

Your brain needs the information to elicit the right postural tone for the context. You would not get very far on an icy surface if your nervous system perceived your bod to be on solid grounds. The feedback serves to protect the foot itself, then adjust gait within milliseconds to make all movements fluid and safe.

Many studies have examined these sensors coined mechanoreceptors in the soles of the feet. Researchers found that the signal influenced muscles of the limbs and elicited postural reflexes, and gave a clear picture of the body’s orientation and interaction with the environment.

The insight has paved the way to new solutions to improve posture and balance. Two studies noted a significant improvement in gait parameters of their older subjects through stimulation of the soles with vibrations. Two others measured noticeable postural sways upon targeting specific parts of the foot.

Your feet’s role in your perception of the world makes them a critical aspect of an effective health strategy. Many people today wear socks and shoes with thick rubber soles from dawn to dusk. The brain receives little to no feedback, which replicates a condition known as neuropathy. This disconnect impairs the integrity of your postural system and puts you at risk of injury and chronic pain.

Take Control of Your Feet

Here are two solutions offered by Posturepro-trained practitioners to counter the restore the sensory machinery of your feet:

1- Be mindful of the shoes you wear. Chose minimalist styles with thin insoles that keep your feet close to the ground.

2- Spend more time barefoot. Do your feet suffocate in socks and tight dress shoes? Let them free whenever possible to keep your sensors active, and tuned to various surfaces (sand, dirt, grass, etc.).

3- Stimulate your soles with specialized tools. You can use the tip of a fork or the Proprioceptive Enhancer seen in this video:

Efficient movements and an upright posture are core components of a healthy body. Posturepro-trained practitioners examine the anatomy and neurology of your feet to resolve the underlying problems behind your pain and performance issues. Take care of your soles the same way you mind your nutrition, and you will feel like a brand new person.

References: 

Cunningham, C. B., Schilling, N., Anders, C., & Carrier, D. R. (2010). The influence of foot posture on the cost of transport in humans. Journal of Experimental Biology, 213(5), 790–797. doi: 10.1242/jeb.038984

Strzalkowski, N. D. J., Ali, R. A., & Bent, L. R. (2017). The firing characteristics of foot sole cutaneous mechanoreceptor afferents in response to vibration stimuli. Journal of Neurophysiology, 118(4), 1931–1942. doi: 10.1152/jn.00647.2016

Bent, L. R., & Lowrey, C. R. (2013). Single low-threshold afferents innervating the skin of the human foot modulate ongoing muscle activity in the upper limbs. Journal of Neurophysiology, 109(6), 1614–1625. doi: 10.1152/jn.00608.2012

Zehr, E., & Stein, R. B. (1999). What functions do reflexes serve during human locomotion? Progress in Neurobiology, 58(2), 185–205. doi: 10.1016/s0301-0082(98)00081-1

Priplata, A. A., Patritti, B. L., Niemi, J. B., Hughes, R., Gravelle, D. C., Lipsitz, L. A., … Collins, J. J. (2005). Noise-enhanced balance control in patients with diabetes and patients with stroke. Annals of Neurology, 59(1), 4–12. doi: 10.1002/ana.20670

Roll, R., Kavounoudias, A., & Roll, J.-P. (2002). Cutaneous afferents from human plantar sole contribute to body posture awareness. NeuroReport, 13(15), 1957–1961. doi: 10.1097/00001756-200210280-00025

Wolf, S., Simon, J., Patikas, D., Schuster, W., Armbrust, P., & Döderlein, L. (2008). Foot motion in children shoes—A comparison of barefoot walking with shod walking in conventional and flexible shoes. Gait & Posture, 27(1), 51–59. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2007.01.005

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Free Guide: How to Fix Rounded Shoulders 

Download a copy of How to Improve your Posture right away by entering your email below:

Did you know that you can’t actually control your posture?

Step by step with scripts

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