Here’s something about me: I love animal tracking and prints. Animal signs are visual traces of past movement so it's no wonder I enjoy tuning in to all the movement around me—I've made a life of it, clearly!
While I am tickled more by wild animal tracks, my favorite animal tracks to read are human footprints. They're just as interesting to me and they're certainly more ubiquitous.
I snapped this picture of my husband's footprints the other day because a picture is worth a thousand words. So, I guess I'll just stop typing now. You get it.
Wait, ARE MORE WORDS NEEDED?
In general, there's more talk about "flat feet" (pes planus) and what to do about it in the minimal footwear community, than there is regarding the other end of the foot-arch spectrum: “high arches” or pes cavus. As you can see in the picture above this guy's arches are so high, the part of the foot that connects the front to the back barely touch the ground.
Feet come in a wide variety of shapes, which are often classified by how they look or measure. One of these measures is “arches,” which are then classified as high, low, or neutral (somewhere in the middle). To illustrate this, I made a group of people paint their feet and then walk all over some butcher paper which is probably why nobody ever wants to come over.
The feet of six different humans (two adults and four kids) and one canine are captured here. Can you find the prints of the guy above? Hint: The purple footprint is mine.
The photo below shows the highest and lowest arches in our family.
You already know who's got the high ones, but the low ones belong to the almost 10-year old in the family. (When he was a baby he'd sleep next to me, both of his feet cradled in my hands and now they are as big as mine and I can no longer hold them at night but he still thinks he's a lap dog and likes to cuddle at night so I'm not complaining.)
Another thing about animal prints of all types: the substrate (what's being walking through) matters. All of the grey prints are the same individual. You can see how the measurements of the feet change based on how much paint or mud they're slipping upon, as well as where their body weight was on their feet (and other things too, like how fast or in what direction they're moving. A standing foot (like the right, green high-arched just above) has almost no lateral foot print but in the moving prints above (wet prints on wood, you can see a right lateral foot leave it's path. This could be because we're heavier while walking (1.5x) than standing, so that extra weight pushes the foot down a bit or it could be because the body (or ankle) leaned to the right a bit due to the direction of walking.
I'm just saying that what starts as something seemingly clear or obvious quickly becomes more complicated the more you learn is going into it.
Now about the arches, especially high ones, and what to do about them.
High arches, like really high ones as pictured above make for stiff feet, which means the ankles end up bearing quite a load. They can also make for ankles that hurt and are easily injured. To take care of his ankles, my husband (whose high-arched feet are pictured doing all of the exercises in the new version of Whole Body Barefoot) has to work hard at making feet more supple. When the arches are even a little more flexible and his lower legs stronger, this winds up better supporting the ankles and the connections around them.
His program specifically:
- lots of Calf Stretch, Strap Stretch, and rolling the sole of his feet on a ball (high arches often come with reallllly tight calves!)
- minimal footwear (especially thin soles)
- taking the non-flat/textured path as much as possible (the more the ground can rise to meet his arch, the better it feels; high-arched feet on flat and hard makes for less support which is probably where the concept of filling in the arch with a shoe comes from)
- and lots of barefoot time (in smaller doses, in safe areas at first)
In short, he's doing all the stuff you'll find in my books on the movements feet need.
The stiffness in your feet might look different. Maybe you need to find your arches again! Surprisingly, the moves to do so aren't that different from the ones to mobilize high arches. Flat feet need to soften (roll the soles!) in certain areas in order to be able to lift at the arch. You'll definitely need some Pelvic List. The moves our bodies need aren't that different, but what we need to supplement with depends on the bodies and movement diets we are bringing to the table. We just might need less of some, more of another.
All our feet could benefit from more movement and having arches that can adjust depending on how we're using them. Find some and get your foot moves on; spring is coming!
And this isn’t only a lesson for you to read about; take a good look at your foot prints – as I did ours, by using paint and paper or by stamping and walking wet feet on a bit of cement.
What do your foot prints looks like now? And, what will they look like after a few months (or years) of regular exercise to make them stronger and mobile?This is one out of a handful of our favorite articles on walking, including topics covering what various “walking parts” do as well as other whole-body considerations. Find the rest of them in the walking section of Our Favorite Feet, Footwear, and Walking Resources.