George Russell, M.A., D.C.

gr2aO.K. everybody, on your feet!

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 necessary!" 
Perhaps dancers, more than anyone, understand the importance of knowing at alldancingtux 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.

Try this, 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.

Feeling 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:,  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 good thing.

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 walk.
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George Russell, M.A., D.C. | 101 Fifth Avenue, Suite 10C | between 17th and 18th Street | New York, NY | NY | 10003