Pacific NW Pilates blog

Pilates’ Foot Focus

by Editrix on June 1, 2016

 

 When Feet Fail

Health and well-being means moving well, with ease. Chronic foot pain encourages inactivity. Less exercise can lead to falls and a general decline in health.

77% of Americans say they have experienced foot pain (APMA). More than 2 million Americans seek treatment for plantar fasciitis (heel pain) alone each year.

High impact exercise is a primary cause of foot pain. At a gym, feet bound in sneakers: Thump, thump, thump on a treadmill.  A foot absorbs forces up to four times that of a runner’s body weight with each stride. Incorrect weight transference and loading can break down joints and tissue.

Alternatively, building strength and movement of the feet in a wide variety of ranges improves their ability to absorb shock. Slow and consistent re-education of foot alignment reduces pain over time.

Stop Pounding and Start Pointing

There are five Footwork positions on the Pilates reformer. Clients learn to control the alignment of the heel, mid-foot and toes and build strength and mobility against varied spring resistance.

There are five Footwork positions on the Pilates reformer. Clients learn to control the alignment of the heel, mid-foot and toes and build strength and mobility against varied spring resistance.

In Pilates, shoes are shed. Feet are free to move. They pointe, flex, wrap, circle, roll and reach. Exercises on the Pilates reformer like Footwork, Feet in Straps and Running encourage awareness and supple strength.

Running, an exercise executed in a supine position on the Pilates reformer, is performed standing at the barre to challenge weight transference in an upright position.

Running, an exercise executed in a supine position on the Pilates reformer, is performed standing at the barre to challenge weight transference in an upright position.

Step up to the barre

Total Barre classes take foot control a step further. Movement is executed in a standing position. An instructor uses their voice and directions to coach foot movement that responds to the music in intricate and varied ways, e.g., “Pressssssss the floor … tap, tap, tap your toes … and hoooooollld the balance.” The choreography and tempo of the music change the quality of how the feet are used.

The bottoms of our feet have more than 200,000 nerve endings and more neuroreceptors than anywhere else in the body. These receptors help our brain identify what is happening in our feet, alerting us to slight alterations in pressure, resistance and texture. If, for example, the ground were to suddenly become slippery, receptors in the feet alert the brain to adjust. Barre class helps trains the brain to adapt to an uneven walkway or irregular curb without a misstep.

Walk this way

The average person takes 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day. That’s about 115,000 miles over a lifetime.

Walking is a complicated activity that requires coordination of the whole body. Poor foot mechanics can lead to discoordination of the rest of the body and pain in the knees, hips or back. Depending on gait phase, a foot needs to be able to lock, unlock, load and explode. It must be adaptive or rigid at the right time to absorb shock or propel.

Small PNWP The Knee Stability & Function-040 (2)

Melanie Byford-Young, PNWP’s in-house therapeutic specialist, teaches instructors to observe a client’s gait in her Foot & Gait Workshop. Walking patterns can be used to assess where breakdowns in the body occur and how to program for Pilates more effectively.

Can you digit?

Pilates educators enrolled in STOTT PILATES Reformer and Total Barre Foundations courses learn that feet are never treated as separate or discrete issues in assessment or teaching. They’re taught to integrate foot movement, alignment and flexibility into every exercise.

In the studio, group reformer classes—including Jumpboard on the Reformer and Pilates for Balance and Power—specialize in teaching how to use the feet well and in many different ways.

PNWP focuses on feet. Hop to it. For feet’s sake, sign up today.

— Leslie Braverman

Pacific NW Pilates is studio, school and fitness family under one roof. Click to learn more about our education courses and workshops, private studio sessions and group classes. Or call Brette for details: (503) 292-4409.

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