Updated: Sep 9
I'd like you to pause for a moment and think about your feet. You know those things at the end of your legs. The ones that stop you from falling on your face on a regular basis. I think our feet are deeply undervalued and much abused. Whenever I talk to people about reflexology a common response is one of horror "you do it to my feet, urghhh...not my feet, don't look at my feet". The depth of response is so great I sometimes wonder if they have misheard me and think I've suggested they strip naked and run through the centre of town.
I want to reacquaint you with this very important part of your body. I want you to love them and look after them. My reason? I don't have a foot fetish, honest. I just respect how hard working the feet are and feel sorry they are so maligned. Feet also talk to us, if we only take time to listen we can learn a lot about the general state of our health and well being. Neglected feet are bit like that bit of damp showing on the wall. Ignore it and before you know it your foundations are crumbling and the house is falling down around your ears (okay slight exaggeration but I hope you get my point). Basically unhealthy, unhappy feet usually reflect an unhealthy, unhappy owner. If your eyes are the window to your soul then your feet are the barometer to your overall health and well being.
Talking feet? Okay, I know I'm sounding a bit like a crazy person, but hear me out. First, let's start this lesson with some interesting facts about your feet. I hope you will be impressed and start to respect your feet a bit more. There are 26 bones and 33 joints in the human foot. That means a quarter of your total body bone count is in your feet. Put your feet together, notice how they are the same shape as your body, head, shoulders, waist, hips. Look at the inside arch of your foot, can you see the shape of your spine? Take this one step further and you can map all your internal organs to the bottom of your feet.
Reflexology understands the foot in this way. It is based on the premise that there are zones and reflex points in your feet which correspond to areas of the body. Applying specific pressure to these areas using thumb, finger and hand massage techniques can encourage the mind and body into a deep state of relaxation. This allows the body time to slow down an over stimulated sympathetic nervous system (triggered by stress, responsible for fight or fight response, dilates the pupils, increases heart rate and adrenalin, inhibits digestion), and encourages the parasympathetic nervous system into action (switching off the flight or fight response), returning the body to a balanced state.
So if you are experiencing stress related symptoms such as trouble sleeping, anxiety or digestive problems then Reflexology may be of benefit to you. Having ticklish feet does not exclude you from experiencing this treatment as the pressure is quite firm. Worse case scenario you will burst into a fit of giggles and laughter is also good for relieving stress, so nothing to lose from trying it!
Problems in the feet can also be a cause of referred pain elsewhere, for example knees, hips and back. Muscular problems with the feet can affect the way you move, placing additional pressure on muscles, tendons, joints etc, which may then result in structural problems. For example lets talk about over-pronation (carrying your weight on the inside of your feet). When wearing a shoe the small muscles in the foot do not need to create the fine control movements that they do when walking barefoot. This can result in the muscles not developing the way they should and over-pronation may be the result. Over-pronation may lead to ankle pain, shin splints, uneven wear and tear on knee cartilage, overnight IT bands (felt by pain on the outside of your thighs), hip pain and nerve impingement between the toe joints which can develop into a collapsed transverse metatarsal arch.
Many people may have over-pronation however never experience any pain from that. This is usually due to our modern sedentary lifestyle. Did you know when you walk the force of your foot with which you hit the round is three times your body weight. If you run it is between seven and nine times. You are therefore more likely to experience the above mentioned problems the more active you are.
What can done for these types of problems? A visit to a podiatrist will help. A corrective insole will help change the way you move. Over time it will train your muscles to move in a different way, placing less pressure on your muscles, tendons and joints. In the mean time regular massage will help your muscles, tendons and joints recover and ease the pain. If you are a parent, encourage your little ones to go barefoot as much as possible, they'll thank you for it when they're older.
So the moral of the story is if you look after your feet they will go a long way to looking after the rest of you. Kick those shoes off, let them breathe, give them a rub and a good dollop of moisturiser while you are at it.
#Love your feet!