Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

It Starts with the Feet

Good structural alignment helps keep our bodies healthy and pain free. If you are young, good structural alignment will prevent damage to knees and hips as you age. If you are older, correcting your alignment will alleviate lower back pain, take pressure off your knees and hips, and help you avoid tripping and falling. It’s never too late, and folks of all ages I’ve worked with have discovered that minor adjustments can yield major benefits. It starts with the feet.

Try this experiment. Without looking down at your feet, stand with your feet parallel to each other and shoulder width apart. When you think your feet are in position, look down. Do your feet look more like the first photo or the second?

Notice that in the first photo, the rods along the outside of the feet are parallel, which places the feet in a straight alignment with the knees. In the second photo, the rods along the inside of the feet are parallel, which places the feet out of alignment with the knees. Many of us stand and walk with our feet actually pointing outwards when we think they are pointing straight ahead.

This strains our knees because our knees are pointing forward out of alignment with our outwardly pointing feet. It also causes foot problems because our weight is not distributed evenly on our feet when they are turned out.

In addition, standing or walking with our feet pointed outward compresses our lower back and eventually causes back pain. Try this experiment. Stand with your feet in an exaggerated outward position. What does that feel like in your lower back? Now stand with your feet in an exaggerated inward position. Can you feel your lower back open up?

You might think it’s too late to change the way you stand or walk, but it isn’t. As I got older, I was having a lot of trouble with my right knee. Acupuncture helped reduce the pain, but it didn’t correct the underlying problem. One of my martial arts teachers observed that I tended to turn my right foot out quite a bit. Interesting because when I tripped over something it was usually my right foot that got caught on something.

I decided to correct my alignment. At first, it felt very unnatural, like I was standing or walking pigeon-toed. Over time, however, it began to feel natural. My right knee quit hurting and was no longer “grinding” when I walked. My lower back felt relaxed and open. I rarely trip because my right foot is not coming off the ground at an angle when I step.

So many people have knee and hip problems as they age. As I walk behind people on the street, I often notice how many people walk with their feet turned out. I can’t help but wonder if there is a connection.

If your standing experiment reveals that your feet are not aligned properly (with the outside of the feet parallel), maybe you will consider making an effort to correct your stance. Your body will be grateful.

If you have any questions or need some help getting started, please let me know. I’m happy to help.

It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence. ~B.K.S. Iyengar

2 thoughts on “It Starts with the Feet”

  1. I needed this information, Galen! We’re trying to help care for a toddler, and in the process of moving into our retirement home. Life is busy and I’m on my feet more than ever, and at the end of the day, I hurt. Years ago, my chiropractor offered to have orthotics made to slip into my shoes, because my arch is nearly flat. It helped, but your explanation of alignment makes me realize I walk with both feet pointing outward. Hopefully, I can work on keeping my feet going in the right direction, and have good results like yours. Thanks very much, Galen!

    1. I’m so glad this was helpful, Pam. It will take some patience and persistence to correct your foot alignment, but I promise it will be worth it. Start with noticing how you stand when you are waiting in line, or while you’re brushing your teeth. If you walk through a puddle, or walk in snow or in sand at the beach, look back at your footprints to see if your feet are pointed straight forward. Good luck! Let me know how it’s going, and be sure to get in touch if you have any questions.

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