Bare Foot and Balance

Kathleen Ismael, Reflexology Practitioner, IronOaks Fitness, 602-695-4808

Kathleen Ismael, Reflexology Practitioner

Most people know that the great toe is key to balance and stability in our step.

The toes are the most important part in the mechanics of our feet, as they provide balance and support while walking and standing. They provide propulsion during the gait cycle. Our toes help us walk, run, step, and jump. They help to catch us from falling and provide stability and balance. Feet, and especially toes, are highly sensory and tell the brain how to step.

Since our culture has taken to the constant wearing of shoes, oftentimes the toes are less engaged in our daily walking. This can cause the toes to become lazy and less active, leading to less engagement in our walking gait and stability. Neuropathy is challenging, as the nerve endings can cause pain, numbness, and lack of sensory input. Stimulation of the toes and feet will increase strength and circulation, waking them up! Walking barefoot, especially on grass, ground, or sand, helps engage the toes.

The muscles and nerves in the foot and leg also must fire to provide necessary components to a balanced and strong gait. One of the most important of these is the deep peroneal nerve. This nerve runs down through the calf (deep fibular nerve) and into the foot. This is a branch of the sciatic nerve, which contains both motor and sensory fibers responsible for firing small muscles in the foot, ankle, and lower leg. Its nerve ending and, thus, reflex point lands at the inner side of the big toe pad. This reflex point is stimulated in proper walking, and mostly while engaging the big toe. Flicking the great and second toes together may also be helpful.

So, since we are so accustomed to shoe wearing most or all of the time, what can we do to strengthen and engage the toes every day? Here are some suggestions:

Wearing barefoot shoes, which have individual compartments for each toe, is helpful. This may be difficult for those who need extra padding under the foot to treat plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, tender feet, or need arch support. Neuro balance physical therapy can be very helpful. Reflexology is an excellent way to stimulate nerve endings and enhance balance. Reflexology engages purposeful pressure at reflex points. Done while the body is in a deep state of relaxation, this enhances healing and circulation, creating more stability and confidence in walking, running, and even just standing. A reflex ball rolled under the foot and grabbed with the toes as much as possible is an excellent way to maintain a healthy gait. Wiggling and purposeful movement of the foot, ankle, and toes can provide needed support. From great to little, your toes will work for you and need all the TLC that they can find.