(Updated Nov 2022)
Whether it’s your plantar fascia, your heel, or somewhere else – foot pain is frustrating. What’s even more frustrating is that most of the suggestions out there for handling it have to do with staying off it, getting orthotics, and taking pain relievers. While those might be a short term part of a comprehensive healing plan, they should not be the entirety of the healing plan.
Your feet respond to the signals they are sent just like the rest of your body does.
And your body is participating in the Signal/Response Principle every day till you die. So it’s never too late.
By learning to send new signals to your body, you’ll begin changing the way your feet feel and function. Here are four actions to take to help heal your foot pain.
This helps the majority of people I’ve worked with who have foot pain, so while there is the chance that you’ll need more work for your feet than what’s listed here, this is the foundation for all feet.
Four Key Actions To Take For Feet That Feel Good
Massage your feet every day
Your soft tissues respond to stimulus. Massaging your soft tissue not only helps to improve blood flow to the area, it also supports changes to the environment of the soft tissue so it can have a better opportunity to grow, heal, adapt, and regenerate, the way it was made to.
Massage also has a palliative effect, which means to reduce pain without curing the cause. Put another way, palliative effect brings comfort or ease thanks to a reduction in symptoms. And when you start feeling a little less weighed down by pain and discomfort, you’re more likely to be willing to add in more activities that move you in the direction of healing.
You can pay a professional to do bodywork on you, but the “daily” part of massage is important, and having a professional work on you daily is outside the time and financial budget of just about everyone who isn’t a professional athlete. Find a way that you can do massage on yourself every day.
Use a nourishing lotion to massage your feet with your own hands.
Find a smooth river rock and place it by your bedside so you can gently stand on it, allowing your bodyweight to melt over it.
Get a lacrosse ball and roll your foot on it.
Get Into A Better Shoe
Much of your time on your feet will be spent walking, and perhaps also running. There are quite a few motions and positions your foot will go through with each step you take, including your heel tipping outward and inward, and your foot going from an arched position to a flat position and back to an arched position.
If you don’t have good management of your heel bone, or you have high arches or flat feet, finding the ability to optimally navigate through the foot positions of gait can be difficult. This can create accommodations further ‘upstream’ in your body, as the nervous system adjusts tension and positions elsewhere to deal with what’s lacking down below.
In addition, the environment your foot has to navigate will give your nervous system copious amounts of information about how it should respond. In the ancient past, your ancestors walked barefoot on natural surfaces. They traveled through tall, soft grass and over soft dirt and sand.
These natural environments were wonderful for meeting your ancestors’ feet with their natural contours.
Just picture how when you walk barefoot on the beach, your foot sinks in and is met by the sand at all of the curves and contours of your foot.
Your body responds favorably when its contours are met and supported, and when your foot meets hard ground unsupported, as in when walking barefoot or in flimsy or unsupportive shoes on hard unnatural surfaces, your brain and body will have to accommodate for the fact that the support is not there.
This can contribute to responses like increased muscle tension and changes to your gait pattern, which can mean that tissues that aren’t built for the job you’re asking them to do now have to do that job excessively.
Appropriate footwear for the environment your foot is in is how you provide the contour support your foot needs so that better information can get to your nervous system and better responses can then come from it.
If you are walking on a soft, natural, surface like sand or tall grass, your foot will be met and there’s no need for a middle man to meet the foot’s contours. A shoe that has minimal support, often advertised as a minimalist shoe, will be just fine.
If, however, you’re walking on a hard surface like concrete, wood or tiled floors, or anything similarly unnatural, take note of the lack of contour support in those types of floors and use a shoe that can create the contour support that your foot wants but isn’t getting from the floor.
Begin doing strengthening exercises for your foot and lower leg
You have muscles below the knee, but so often people seem to forget about specifically exercising them with strength training exercises. When you train the muscles of your lower leg and foot, they will grow stronger and more toned. When you don’t train them, they will weaken and struggle to meet the demands you’re placing on them as you move around.
You will have to rely on other structures, like the plantar fascia, the heel, or the ball joints of the feet, to do more work than they are built to do. Flat feet, hammer toes, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, and so many more foot conditions (as well as conditions “upstream” in the body) can develop because the muscles of the lower leg and feet aren’t doing their job.
There are many exercises that should be a part of a well-rounded workout plan, and the calf raise is one of them. I’ve created a new video for you to help you ensure you’re getting the most out of the calf raise exercise. Click below to watch it and learn three important tips for making the most of this foot training exercise.
Get a complete workout program
Now, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the solution to your pain is to only work on the lower leg and foot! The body is all connected and it’s a mistake to look only at the feet to deal with what’s going on in the feet.
If you’re serious about healing your feet then you’ll want a complete program.
Nothing in your body works in isolation, and nothing in life works in isolation either. Your workout program should cover all the bases – from posture to glute strength, from mobility to strength work. And it should help you uncover lifestyle changes that will support you as you work to resolve the aches and pains and become an Unbreakable human.
I coach folks just like you in my Becoming Unbreakable Workout & Lifestyle Course and I’d love to have you join us. Click the image below to learn more about all that the course provides for you and the results it will help you achieve.