|George Russell, M.A., D.C.
O.K. everybody, on your
How can we be "quick on our feet"-ready to
turn on the proverbial dime-without experiencing
ourselves as unstable, or "tipsy"? Conversely, how
can we maintain a solid foundation, without feeling that
we have "feet of clay"?
You: "But Dr.
Russell! Surely it can't be possible to be both
fleet-footed and grounded?" Me: "Why
________ (your name here), not only is it possible, it's
Perhaps dancers, more
than anyone, understand the importance of knowing at
all times just where their feet are -
even when their feet are off the ground. In
mid-leap, the dancer's concern is not so much "Where
will I land?" but "How will I land?"
Answer: squarely on the sole of one foot, with the
other foot in energetic form.
The rest of us can
borrow some of the dancer's attentiveness to the foot.
Try this: When you feel anxious,
ungrounded, ask yourself, "where are my feet?" Not
only will the absurdity of this question interrupt your
stream of stressful thinking - and this in itself is an
improvement - but, by placing your attention to your
feet, you will start to feel a return of stability and a
decrease of distress.
Try this: When you
feel tired, get out your feet. Put one bare foot
down on the floor and trace its edges with your
finger. Then lift that foot, and with your hands,
and gently slap and pat, and rub and bend and fold that
foot in all the ways it can be bent and folded.
(Warning: Stop if you find you've made an origami
crane!) Repeat with other foot.
too: Stand tall. Root the balls of your feet
and your heels into the floor, while lifting and
spreading your toes, and lifting your arches as
well. Then allow the toes to rest on the floor,
while keeping the arches high. Feel the "four
corners" of your foot: the big toe, the little
toe, and the two sides of the heel. Keep the
arches lifted! Now bring your feet together and
feel the "suction cup" that the two feet and their
arches combined form on the floor (This is one of
Irene Dowd's images). Imagine that you are drawing
strength and energy up from the ground through the
suction cup. Repeat.
ambitious? You are, aren't you? Lie down on
the floor one foot less than a leg's length away from
the wall. Press the soles of your feet firmly into
the wall but don't allow your body to just slide
away. Really press, until finally, against
resistance, your legs straighten. By doing this,
you will increase your awareness of what you do all day
long when standing and walking and dancing: you
press against the floor, in opposition to gravity.
In depression and fatigue, we all tend to diminish the
pressure we exert against the earth, which in turn
diminishes our height and power. As you lie on the
floor, really press your soles into the wall and feel
your spine lengthen!
When Bad Things Happen to
(perfectly) Good Feet. Foot problems are
endemic. Falling arches are common and can lead to
plantar fasciitis and bunions, among other things.
If you want a great clue as to what goes on in your walk
and stance, check out the location of any corns and/or
callouses you may have, and the wear-patterns on the
soles of your shoes. I often check this out with a
patient to determine where the stress is going and how
he or she can work toward a healthier gait.
Orthotics (custom foot/arch supports) can also
help. (Secret: even some dancers wear
orthotics!) Do exercises for your arches to
keep them strong and lifted. Stretching your
calves can also help you keep your feet healthy,
especially if you like to wear heels higher than an
inch. Try Yoga Toes: www.yogapro.com,
a simple but ingenious invention that counters bunions
by spreading each individual toe, which in turn spreads
the entire foot in a supportive direction. With a
few exceptions, going barefoot as much as you can is a
I'm always asked: What are the best
shoes for me to wear? I don't think there's a
single answer. But a wide toe box allowing for
plenty of toe-room is preferable to a narrow toe
box. A shoe should provide arch support, and allow
you to feel the four corners of the foot. There
are some cool new shoes out there, like MBTs, that allow
you to keep strength in your foot muscles. If you
go for MBTs, make sure that they fit well, and that you
roll through the shoes fully when you
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