What does posture mean? To many people it indicates the difference between someone who’s having a good day versus someone who’s down on their luck. Slumped shoulders and a hunched stance might indicate boredom or a lack of confidence, while an upright back and squared shoulders can convey confidence and interest.
Posture communicates plenty–but what posture communicates about your health is one of the most important things you should be aware of. Because it turns out that when your mom told you to sit up straight, she was on the right track. However, science tell us that when it comes to posture, she should have been just as worried about your feet!
Why? Keep reading!
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Posture Basics, Head to Toe
Poor posture–hunching, sunken shoulders, and a slumped back–can have a dramatic effect on your muscles and ligaments. It can lead to injuries of the knees, heels, feet, back, and even difficulty with breathing and digestion. Bad posture is typically caused by–and exacerbated by–an imbalance in your muscles in strength and tension, and the muscles in your feet play a critical role. For example, tight calf muscles paired with weak plantar fascia can wreak havoc on your gait and foot posture (the alignment of the foot itself). This poor posture is a vicious cycle, causing the body (which naturally leans slightly forward) to tilt further forward or backward, adding additional strain to your feet and heels, and making plantar fasciitis–and posture–worse.
Correcting Posture From the Feet Up
When it comes to posture and plantar fasciitis, it’s possible to improve your posture from the feet up by taking measures to improve foot alignment, correct your gait, and allow the body to align normally without increasing or causing pain to your feet and heels. Using low-cost, effective heel seats that slip right into your shoes (and don’t carry the expense or weight of orthotic shoes) is one of the best ways to improve posture. Slip-in heel seats cushion the heel, reduce or eliminate pain, and allow you to put weight on your feet comfortably without adopting an altered gait.
Another great way to improve your posture from the feet up is by using simple stretches to make sure that your muscles and tendons are limber and not too tight. Taking a few minutes every day to stretch your calves, fascia, and other muscles and tendons in the feet and legs can make a world of difference. When your muscles are limber and stretched, you’ll avoid a situation where one group of muscles is pulling another forward or backward subtly, throwing off your stride–literally.
Proper stretching and properly supporting the feet and heels help ensure that your weight falls on the balls of your feet first as you walk–instead of your heel. With a heel-first gait (caused and exacerbated by bad posture), your feet absorb greater impact and aren’t able to propel the body forward as effectively–meaning you’re having to work extra hard to walk the same distance and putting additional strain on your fascia and heels.
Improving Foot Posture
As you work to improve your overall posture, make sure you don’t neglect the posture of your feet themselves. Improving overall posture is hard to do when your feet–which support the weight of your entire body–aren’t in the correct position!
Properly aligned feet should face forward, rather than one or both feet turning inward or outward. As you properly support your feet and stretch your calves, heels, and fascia, you should find that your feet align more properly and that physical activity becomes more comfortable as well. An additional method that can be taken to improve foot alignment if you’d like to see faster results is wearing a night splint that supports your feet and heels, and keeps the fascia limber even while you’re sleeping.
By correcting your posture from the feet up, not only will you look better–and communicate more confidence to the people around you–but you’ll feel better and avoid future injuries with a body in balance.