In 2004 I had a wonderful opportunity to travel for the first time out of the country. I was a licensed boat captain and was offered a 6-7 week job working on the set of Survivor. Needless to say what I experienced there imprinted me for life. At the time, I felt the happiest I had ever been.
A terabyte was not yet a ‘thing’, and film cameras were still around so my 3.0 Megapixel point-and-click was pretty good. I took over 3,000 photographs capturing everything my lens could focus on. With a sharp eye for photography (its in the family) and also for things unusual, my quick trigger finger secured stills in digital limbo until I returned home.
One subject that stood out to me was a local crewman. More specifically it was his feet. Back then, I said to myself ‘Ew!’, wondering why they looked so different. I thought my feet were fairly functional, and athletic (a doctor once told me). I assumed there was something amiss based on the discrepancy I observed. They were so strange to my eye, that I took a photo while he was on the boat.
10+ years later, I’m teaching workshops and leading seminars on function, alignment and posture and guess what. . . I’m pointing out how dysfunctional my feet and indeed all feet are whose toes are NOT aligned like what you see.
Its more than a culture clash, although that is what triggered me to take the shot at first. Was it my european genetic background vs his pacific ancestry? Nope. It was, and IS a musculoskeletal response to environmental stimulus.
In short, Americans have our feet crammed into shoes as soon as we have feet to put them into.
ENTER: DEVELOPMENTAL IMPEDENCE
Think of it like growing a seedling inside a snug box. You ultimately affect the form and structure by manipulating its environment. It crowds the box. It can’t develop like a plant outside in the garden due to the contrasting stimulus, or lack thereof. (more on childhood development in another post)
Similar to the bones in our hands, the bones of the feet spread outward to form what we know as the widest part of the foot, the ‘ball’. But its not designed to stop there, actually the toes should be the WIDEST part of the foot. You can see in these photos what can happen over time with narrow shoe boxes that crowd the foot. This is a stark contrast in comparison and one that can create symptoms felt up the musculoskeletal chain to the top of the head.
Try walking at home in regular shoes. Focus on how you feel, head to toe. Now try with no shoes. Notice the difference? Does your strike sound louder? Feel the change in your shoulders or head? Now try another type of shoe, maybe a flip flop or a heel. The change occurs through the entire body.
Try something else. Lift your toes up and walk on your heels. Now walk on the balls of your feet. Try walking on the outside edges of the feet. Now the inside edges. Its extreme I know, but my point is, if you change one part you affect the entirety.
Stimulus most definitely impacts the form our body takes over time. Though it is crucial to develop fully especially as children, we can still bring fuller function to our bodies and lives. All it takes is a little varied stimulus, a bit of interruption, and the body jumps at the chance to align itself and restore its own function, no matter what shoe you're wearing. If this is an area that you feel you can improve on, why not sign up for one of my classes or a private session? All you have to lose is your shoes, for a little while :-)