Pilates is one of the best ways to strengthen and balance the feet, and therefore the entire body.
- Dina Voigt
Pilates Provides What Your Feet Sorely Need
Pilates is known for building core strength, flexibility, and stability. It is a method of FULL BODY conditioning. In my opinion, the Pilates Method is the best way to bring the entire body into balance. In all my years of practicing and teaching Pilates, I constantly stress the importance of the feet and their role in how we engage the body. I often say, “the feet are EVERYTHING,” they are the foundation of our structure (our structure being the body). In our culture, the feet are ignored and mistreated continuously. While some of us get pedicures, etc., the true structure, musculature, and function of the feet are often neglected. Sure, we look for shoes with arch support, good running shoes, cross trainers, etc. This is necessary since we are not a barefoot society. However, we must not rely on our shoes to do the “work” our feet are supposed to do.
We receive sensory input from our feet that tells us how and where to step. The energy from our feet recruits different muscles up the chain of the leg into the pelvis and spine. Pilates is one of the best ways to strengthen and balance the feet, and therefore the entire body.
Romana Kryznowska was a teen studying ballet at George Balanchine’s School of American ballet. When Romana suffered an ankle injury, Balanchine himself brought her to see Joseph Pilates in his NYC studio. Joseph explained that the body must be treated as a “whole,” and core strength and ankle stability are directly related. Romana’s ankle injury was fixed, and so much more! After her first visit, she started to work frequently with Joe and became his apprentice in 1944. Romana continued Joe’s work and became the director of Joe and Clara Pilates’s 8th Avenue Studio from 1970 until her death at 90 years of age in 2013.
Treating the body as a “whole” and applying the fundamentals of the Pilates Method is pertinent to making permanent change and receiving healing results in the body. Not only is energy translated upward from the feet, the body weight from the top of the spine, including the weight of the head, is translated through the legs and into the feet. How we distribute our weight, how we stand, and how we move on our feet is directly related to the ENTIRE body. Knee pain, hip pain, back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, etc. can many times be directly related to imbalance and weakness in the feet!
The human foot contains 26-28 bones, 30-33 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Nearly ¼ of the body’s bones are in our FEET! One of the most important bones of the foot is the Talus. The Talus is the bone at the top of the foot that forms a joint with the two bones of the lower leg, the tibia, and fibula. “In humans, no muscles attach to the Talus, unlike most bones, and its position, therefore, depends on the position of neighboring bones.”* By design alone, this makes for a “complicated” joint. The talus receives the body weight from the tibia (the main weight-bearing bone of the lower leg). This weight spreads through the foot as it transfers from the talus, so depending on how we are standing and moving the bones of the feet shift, and this affects the entire skeleton. The positioning of the foot affects not only the position of the pelvis but of the femur bone.
Fortunately for us, Pilates is just incredible for teaching the neutral Talus and bringing the feet, and hence the entire body, into balance. There are many exercises you can do on your own to begin strengthening your feet, beginning with simple ankle rolls, to “doming,” to using Pilates equipment, including the reformer, and push through bars on the tower, as well as the classical foot corrector and other Pilates apparatus.
Here are three exercises you can begin right now on your own!
This is best done seated or lying down.
Slowly circle your entire foot from the ankle through the toes. Find your full range of motion by keeping your thigh bone stable. You want to isolate this movement to the foot only. Be sure to articulate through each toe as you move through your circles. Working through the deepest pointed and flexed positions. I recommend doing one foot at a time so you can pay attention to the thigh bone stability. Circle 5-10 times in each direction.
Toe stretches with insert
Take a paper towel and roll it so you can weave it between your toes. (You can also purchase pedicure pads). Depending on the tightness of your toes and foot muscles, you may be only able to do this for a few minutes at a time while seated. As you start to open up, you can do this whenever you are barefoot for a while. Try this 2 to 3 times per week.
Toe stretches with doming
This is best done seated. Place the fingers of both hands under the ball of one foot and lift it up gently. Use your thumbs to gently press down on the tops of the toes to stretch them from the joints. Repeat 3 to 5 times, holding for 10 to 15 seconds each. Then gently flex and extend the toes with your hands.
Don’t wait for foot pain – or any other pain – to start your Pilates journey! If you would like clarification on any of the above exercises, or to schedule an evaluation or any additional information, please email me: email@example.com.
Stay tuned for videos and a Master class for the feet and more!
*Bosjen-Miller, Finn; …Anato
About the Author
Dina Voigt is the Manager of Fitness Incentives Pilates and Yoga programs. She is a PMA-certified Pilates trainer, a certified Yoga instructor, a Personal Trainer, Group exercise instructor, and Cycle instructor.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or for further information.