Standing better involves minding not only where your pelvis is but also where your feet are pointing.
Remember that the way you stand is very often an indication of the way you walk.
So, stand up and look down or better still, look in a full-size mirror.
Are your feet pointing straight ahead?
Are they pointing out to the sides? (like in the above pictures)
What if your feet are pointing out to the sides?
1. If your feet are pointing at 2 o'clock as the rest of you is going forward, that means a lot of torsional (twisting) forces for the knees. This may eventually cause issues to the knee joints and connective tissue.
2. It can be an indication that your calf muscles are shortened and weak, and that you have lost mobility in your ankles: This may eventually affect your balance and strength.
3. When you walk with feet turned out, you are not using your lateral hip muscles. You are not clearing the ground by using your hips but by externally rotating your lower leg, while your upper leg is internally rotated (see top right photo). This means that you won't be able to stabilise your pelvis, you will be using your back excessively, which will cause issues when your overused back muscles (Erector Spinae) can no longer compensate for your lack of hip extension. You will eventually suffer from restricted mobiliy at the hip, a loss of strength over time, potentially discomfort and pain, a loss of stability in the pelvis and SI joint.
4. You are likely to develop fallen arches, which, in combination with narrow footwear, may lead to a migration of your big toe towards the other four.
How to assess how shortened your calves are?
Compare the angle between your foot and your shin at rest with the same angle in a baby or toddler. What have you got? close to 90 degrees or nowhere near?
1) Stand with your feet a little straighter than what they are used to
2) Bring your feet in an uphill position/calf stretch regularly - to start restoring length in your calf muscles and Achilles tendon (and the whole of the back of your legs all the way up to your spine) as well as the mobility of your ankles.
Calf stretch as often as you can - ball of the foot on top of a half-dome or rolled towed or rope (as demonstrated below), with your heel down.
Do this with leg straight - to target the gastrocnemius
Do this with leg bent - to target the soleus
How did our calf muscles get shorter?
Because what we have exposed our feet and legs to is mostly flat, level terrain (in our houses, offices, schools, on our pavements) or downhill (by wearing shoes with an elevation at the heel).
This means that there is a lack of mobility at the ankle because of the lack of exposure to any sort of uphill environment!
To restore mobility in the ankle, we need more uphill movement, which can be remedied by calf stretching at home AND regularly walking uphill barefoot or in shoes with no elevation at the heel. This movement has been missing from our environment so we need to reintroduce it.
Sitting is also a big culprit as it will shorten the calf muscle that crosses the knee joint (gastrocnemius). The tissues adapt to the position they are maintained in for the greatest part of the day... and night! A knee bent always at the same angle will mean the muscle is always maintained at the same angle so will adjust its resting length accordingly.
Implications of a deficit in uphill movement combined with excessive sitting
The gastrocnemius is shortened at both ends due to having our knees bent for most of the day and due to wearing shoes with a heel of any height, even half and inch) and is therefore not at its optimal resting length so does not generate as much power as it could. It also does not circulate blood and lymph as efficiently as it could, so this may lead to pooling and therefore poor circulation (varicose veins, cold feet) and swollen legs and feet.
Happy to discuss any of the above further.
Photo credit: the barefoot podiatrist.
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