From the ground up

If I had a penny for every person I hear complain about foot pain, I would be rich! As someone who has previously suffered with chronic foot pain for years, I understand how frustrating and debilitating foot problems can be. When our feet hurt, our whole body hurts. Wearing stiff, cushioned, positive heeled shoes with narrow toe boxes has not only changed the shape of our feet but also our bodies and indeed how our whole body functions. Plantar fasciitis, neuromas, bunions, hammer toes, metatarsalgia, to name a few, are just some of the many foot complaints I come across.

Our feet have been cast in shoes our entire lives and our foot musculature has atrophied. A body without all of its tissues "online" cannot functional optimally. A heel in a shoe does not allow us to present a neutral body position to the ground and alters the loads that each of our parts experience. This is fine sometimes but most of us live in this non-optimal position for the bulk of the day.

In previous blogs I have talked about spending more of my sitting time closer to the floor to get more movement into my day and help restore lost ranges of motion. Allowing our feet to get closer to the ground is a critical piece too. One of the easiest things you can do to improve your whole body health is to put less on your feet. Our feet are probably the most overlooked and underused body part. You could be forgiven for assuming because you spend a lot of time on your feet that you are using them. You could also be forgiven for thinking that your shoes may have nothing to do with your knee, hip, back, or even your shoulder pain.

A healthy foot creates a “picture” in the brain that helps the body’s centre of mass orient itself. When your feet are stiff and tight due to wearing shoes, then other parts of you become stiff and tight too.


Most conventional shoes change the shape of your feet over the long term and elevate us away from the ground. This elevation, which applies to almost all shoes on the market, along with stiff, narrow toe boxes and toe rise, affect the way we stand, walk and load our bodies, and not in a good way. This applies to almost all shoes, male, female, adult, child, toddler, no-one can escape a heel it seems.

There is a trend towards standing workstations which is great. However, if you want to get the full benefit of your standing time then how you stand and what you have on your feet is hugely important.  Add to the fact that we mostly walk on unnatural terrain, ie flat and level, and we no longer have the ranges of motion in our feet or our ankles either which help to stablise us.

We believe our feet need support and indeed if we have spent our whole life in shoes, then indeed we might. However if our feet were allowed to develop their own strength without being cast in shoes from a very early age then this amazing piece of architecture would not need support.

The good news, is that it’s never too late to bring our feet back to life, there are many ways to begin to strengthen and mobilise our feet and it is necessary to transition slowly into less shoe. I have been working on mobilising my feet for a long time. Going from orthotics to less built up shoes and eventually to little or no shoe all the time has probably been one of the best things I have done for my feet and the rest of my body. It was a gradual process and it took many years. When I'm at home these are two of my favourites ways to mobilise my feet:


I’m not suggesting you ditch your shoes just yet. I encourage you to do some research and get the necessary information to make better choices about what you put on your feet and why it matters, which in the long term will give you a healthier foot, better overall health and the ability to move well long into your life

You can start with these wonderful resources:

Excellent videos of foot stretches from Dr Ray McClanahan of Correct Toes

Alignment Socks from My Happy Feet

Everywoman's Guide to Foot Pain Relief (despite the title, for men also!) by Katy Bowman

Whole Body Barefoot, Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear by Katy Bowman (also available as an audio book)

These books are also available on Amazon UK.

If you have any questions or are not sure where to start, post in the comments below.

Be Well.


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