Photo: Votography Images

By: John Fiore, PT, owner of Sapphire Physical Therapy

The function of the foot

There are many simple yet highly effective exercises to aid in foot function

The human foot is an evolutionary marvel. The human foot contains twenty-six bones, thirty-three joints, and one-hundred ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Humans have the unique ability to walk on two legs (bipedal walking), due in part to the ingenious balance of mobility, shock absorption, and propulsion found in our feet. Our ancestors climbed trees and traveled on all four extremities. As humans diverged from our primate ancestors, our toes shortened for push-off, our heel (calcaneus) mass increased for foot strike, and our mid-foot arch developed for shock absorption and recoil.

Why focus on foot function?

Most of us keep our feet covered in socks and shoes and rarely considering the important role our feet play in our daily lives and recreational activities. I have seen many feet in twenty-eight years of physical therapy practice, and I am confident that there is no such thing as the perfect foot. The take home message of this article is the importance of regularly addressing foot joint mobility, strength, and balance to allow your unique feet to function properly for a lifetime.

John Fiore helping a runner after the Snowbowl 15k. Photo: Votography Images

Foot stress increases when the ankle joints are stiff. When the lower leg and foot musculature (intrinsic muscles on the bottom of the foot) are weak, foot and ankle strain increases. In addition, foot and ankle joint impact increases when our foot is not capable of effectively absorbing and transferring impact force associated with landing, especially during running and jumping activities.

Next steps

While it is true that more impressive exercises exist (squats, lunges, deadlifts, planks), there are few exercises as important for living, working, playing, running, or jumping without pain than foot-specific exercises. I recommend being proactive in regard to your foot health, especially if you have recreational or competitive goals in 2021. Make an appointment with one of our physical therapists for a consultation, individualized exercise program, and training recommendations. Sapphire PT specializes in foot and ankle treatment. Our services range from preventative, to post-operative, to custom foot orthotics fabricated on-site for your unique foot issues.