Why your feet matter when it comes to pelvic floor health

We’re led to believe that our feet are weak and need protecting, from sturdy shoes, thick soles and support for the ankles. Any issues with the feet lead to more support (insoles, orthotics, thicker soles) but when it comes to your pelvic floor this will just increase your issues.

Your feet have as many joints as your hands, this is so they can mould to the surface that they are walking on – to help you stay balanced and avoid trips and falls.

We’ve instead created an environment where they only ever experience flat, smooth surfaces and are protected from their environment. The result is a poor way of walking that is more falling from one foot to the other and causing jarring to the whole body.

In turn your body compensates for this lack of mobility in your feet by overuse of the ankles, knees, hips and spine.

You can use your feet to see whereabouts in your body you need to work. For example; flat feet are caused by your thigh bone turning in, high arches by your thigh bone turning out. Both a turnout and a turn in of the thigh bone will cause an instability in your pelvis and in turn stop your pelvic floor muscles from functioning properly.

Plantar fasciitis is caused by tight hamstrings which pull the pelvis out of alignment and again causes instability of the pelvis and pelvic floor.

One of the first steps, if you will, is to allow the feet to function properly – regain mobility and strength and release tension. This is done by exercises but also working towards more foot friendly shoes. Modern shoes tend to have very narrow toe boxes which squish the toes together and prevent the muscles, ligaments and joints in the feet to work properly.

Thick soles on shoes stop prevent the muscles and joints of the bottom of the foot to move properly causing a jarring way of walking and leading to much more risk of tripping and falling especially as you get older.

And heels of any sort tip your weight forward onto feet preventing your toes the mobility they need to help you balance.

I never recommend going straight into barefoot shoes however, even if you spend a lot of time barefoot in the house – you may find you still have tension and weakness in your feet and unless you address this first you could cause yourself an injury by moving to fast into barefoot shoes.

One of the early exercises I teach for foot mobility is to move the big toe. It needs to move independently of the rest of the toes and ankle.

If you can’t do this then make sure your weight is back in your heels so your toes can move. Then if you need to you can press the other toes down with your hands and even lift the big toe as you think about it to help get the message system from your brain to your toe working again. Practice this as much as possible and once you can do this one then work on the next toe.

Rosie Dhoopun is a pregnancy and postpartum exercise specialist, antenatal teacher, pelvic floor restore coach, babywearing consultant and massage therapist.

She runs classes and 1:1’s from a yurt in the Suffolk countryside and has online courses available.

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