Massage & Bodywork

March/April 2013

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technique Classroom to client | @work | Energy work | Myofascial techniques Working with the Shoe-Bound Arch By Til Luchau Michelangelo said, "What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize that the foot is more noble than the shoe?" Some 500 years later, we are still squeezing our feet into shoes; shoes that, in the name of beauty, are often too small. But compressed feet are rarely happy feet. As an extreme example, consider foot-binding, which was practiced in some parts of China until modern times, despite being outlawed in 1912 and again in 1949. Done in the name of beauty, the foot bones were broken and distorted to allow the wearing of a miniature shoe (Images 1 and 2). Women with bound feet suffered pain and lifelong disabilities.1 The space and movement between the foot bones are as important as the bones themselves. Without enough space and movement, feet lose the supple mobility needed for adapting to the constantly changing angles, forces, and surfaces that standing, walking, and running entail. 3 1 2 An X-ray of bound feet (Image 1), and a miniature shoe for a bound foot, China, 18th century (Image 2). Images sized to approximately the same scale, as the shoe was worn only on the big toe. 114 massage & bodywork When the feet aren't able to make the ultrafine adjustments that provide stability, larger muscles and connective tissue structures elsewhere in the body compensate by gripping, tightening, and holding. Try this: walk barefoot around the room, but stiffen one of your big toe joints—don't allow it to move. Obviously, this will change the way you walk; but more to our point, feel where else in your body you sense the effects of this toe restriction. If you had to walk like this for a long time, where would you need some bodywork? Many will notice a change in knee function, stiffer hips, or back or neck discomfort. When the feet aren't happy, the body isn't happy. Barefoot and minimalist running has been popular for several years now, and the trend shows few signs of fading. Despite its faddish aspects (minimalist shoes, in spite of having less to them, often cost more), barefoot running has spurred a thought-provoking debate into the definition of foot health, and offers ideas that we can adopt for our hands-on work with clients and patients. Barefoot runners claim that since humans have been running march/april 2013 Research comparing shoe-users' feet with those of indigenous nonshoe wearers correlates shoe use with narrower feet, higher arches, and less-even weight distribution.

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