Are Your Feet Killing You? Happier, Pain-Free Feet With Somatics

The feet are an integral part of our balancing system. They are the means through which we meet the ground and negotiate the surface upon which we walk.

When we sprain an ankle or suffer a lower leg injury we lose the ability to walk in a balanced way and are more likely to re-injure the same joint. We habituate to the Trauma Reflex and may even walk with a limp. When our backs become chronically tight (Green Light Reflex) we may find ourselves walking heavily and heel-striking loudly. We may even experience shin splits when we run in this situation.

Humans are the only perfectly bipedal being on earth. When all goes well, our feet coordinate  together beautifully with the legs, pelvis, and somatic center so we can stand up in gravity and move forward.

Feet 1Many people, however, stuff their feet into hard, narrow shoes, put them into artificial and unnatural positions (such as when wearing high heels), and “support them” with orthotics and thick sneakers; both orthotics and thick “supportive” shoes only “prop up” the problems in the center of the body. They in fact, can make things worse by preventing our feet from sensing and feeling the surface they stand on and responding to the sensory feedback that would ideally help them know where they are in space. Our proprioceptive abilities diminish the more we have between our feet and the ground beneath them.

Some people are told that problems such as hammertoe, bunions, and neuromas are always heredity structural problems when, in many cases, they can develop due to functional imbalances in the center of the body.  When we stop training our feet to sense and feel we can forget how to use our feet and toes over time.

The muscles of the feet are no different from any other muscles in the body: they can learn to be flexible, responsive to movement, and highly efficient. They can also learn to stay tight and contracted, making walking unpleasant, cumbersome, clumsy and painful –  especially when barefoot. Sensory motor training can help prevent the need for orthotics as you regain the ability to walk smoothly, lightly and evenly, using both legs and feet.

Problems of the feet develop in the lower leg due to imbalances in the muscles of the center of the body.

How often have you stopped and noticed your feet and how your weight is distributed through your feet? Do you clutch your toes? If you tend to lean forward, slightly slumped in your posture, and stuck in the Red Light Reflex, you probably do. Clutching your toes keeps you from falling forward! This suggests a lack of balance in the center of the body. When you stand or walk do you tend to roll in or out on your feet? Notice this next time you walk. Notice whether you put more weight on one leg and foot than the other when you walk. Then make a note of which foot is more sore or painful (or has a bunion).

Feet 2The more you move your feet the better your balance and gait will be.

In my book, Move Without Pain, I recommend getting reacquainted with your feet by playing with them. Did you ever wonder why babies play with their feet? They are a vast resource of information that provides critically important information for the brain. Once we stand up to gravity that information can help us with our proprioception and balance.
Laura Gates, taught a group of my Clinical Somatic Education practitioners-in-training in Europe how to explore the muscles and movement of the feet for happier, more flexible and “intelligent” feet. Below is an easy, fun video tutorial about how to remind the muscles of the feet (and lower legs) to stay relaxed and ready for action. Remember, the first step to happy feet is learning to regain sensation and control of  the tight muscles of the back, waist and abdominals so you can stand easily in a balanced, neutral position. Then play with the movements on this video and enjoy your smooth, easy walk.


8 thoughts on “Are Your Feet Killing You? Happier, Pain-Free Feet With Somatics

  1. Pingback: Have You Been Neglecting These Often Overlooked Muscles? I Bet You Have! - Get Fit, Not Injured

  2. Hi Martha

    I have a question for you. I come across many people in my life who could use somatics. As going to be physiotherapist a find the ability somatics gives me particularly facinating. But i really want to know how to instruct to others. I have a hard time doing it on myself even even thou i succed.

    FRom my experince working with my own problems it seem like u should pandiculate the muscles opposite of the one that hurts. Is this always true? I give u one example – Ive met a girl who has pain inher illopsoasmuscle on one side. She has the posture of a green light reflex. I would want her to do the back lift on the other side from were shes hurting, which seem s right in this case. Ive tried to tap with my fingers on the muscles that i want the person im working with to use but im not sure all the time what muscles are supposed to do the particular movement

    Would aslo like to know if u will be holding any seminars this summer and if so any one in europe?


    • Hi Kim,

      It sounds as if this training is what you’re looking for. If you’re not sure which muscles the exercises are releasing and how to properly guide the client to release the pattern of tightness, you will learn a lot in the Somatic Exercise Coach (SEC) training.

      You can see my teaching schedule on my website under “Trainings.” I’m teaching an SEC Training in York, UK in October and will soon schedule one for the Fall in NYC and/or NJ.
      Where are you located? Perhaps we need to do a training in your area!

      All the best,

  3. Thanks for your reply!
    Im living in Sweden and it would be very helpful if you could come here =). Would it be possible for you to teach me trough a private session? Its avery long time to the fall you know

  4. Hi Martha,
    please advise whether you address morons Neuroma (LOL- Morton’s) in any of your products as I would like to know if this system could be used successfully.

    • Hi Julie,

      “Morton’s Foot” is, from my clinical experience, a symptom of Sensory Motor Amnesia. One of the short testimonials on my website (on the sidebar) is from a woman who came to me with this condition. What she really had was a Trauma Reflex. One side of her body was tighter than the other due to an accident. This caused her to change the way she walked…which caused the “Morton’s Foot,” or Morton’s neuroma, to develop. Once she learned to release and rebalance the muscles of the center her condition went away and has never come back. To this day she does her Somatic Exercises and gives some attention to how she moves and uses her feet.

      So yes, Somatics can help you get rid of this condition. In most cases it’s a muscle function problem – not a structural problem.

      All the best,

  5. Pingback: Smooth Out Your Gait and Improve Your Walking | Pain Relief Through Movement

  6. Pingback: Smooth Out Your Gait and Improve Your Walking | Pain Relief Through Movement

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