2. Foot Function

Foot Function

The foot has 2 important functions: weight-bearing and propulsion.

These functions require the foot to have 2 characteristics. The multiple bones and joints of the foot must be flexible, so it can adapt to uneven surfaces, as well as stable which it accomplishes by forming 3 arches to support any weight.  There are 26 bones in each foot, meaning that the feet house about one-quarter of the 206 bones in the human body not to mention all the various joints.

The architectural form of the foot is designed to distribute and spread body weight evenly over a base with arches that are strong and flexible. By design, the feet are in a relationship with the two joints that make up the ankle which together creates an adaptable system for efficiency in movement and stability. The body now has the potential to move with faultless efficiency and dynamic ease. It means achieving consummate balance – the perfect mix of mobility and stability.  Human bipedal gait was a pragmatic solution for evolution.  A person is driven to walk in their own unique manner for 5 main purposes:

  1. To move from point A to point B in the most efficient With the least amount of metabolic energy expended, given their specific morphologic characteristics and functional capacity.
  2. To move from point A to point B in the least painful
  3. To move from point A to point B with injury avoidance.
  4. To maintain forward velocity as constant as possible.
  5. To maintain upright posture and balance.

Control by the visual centers in the CNS also contributes to lateral balance. Optical flow patterns during locomotion help control postural sway. Even with patients with quite severe walking disorders, the center of mass velocity seems to be almost constant. Forward walking velocity is therefore essential to dynamic stability.

LAB: foot rocker exercise: page 67 in the Workbook 


Muscles are only necessary to start, stop and manage perturbation.  Once in motion, only minor if any muscular activity is required.”                   Tom McGreer. Ph.D.: 1993 Journal of Theoretical Biology



Form Follows Function

The Align Systems introduces an architectural approach to investigate the complex or carefully designed structure of something.

Core Concept = Form Follows Function

This is a principle associated with modernist architecture and industrial design in the 20th century. The principle is that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose. It notes that everything in nature has a purpose and a shape. 

Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling workhorse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and this is the law. Where function does not change, form does not change. The granite rocks, the ever-brooding hills, remain for ages; the lightning lives, comes into shape, and dies, in a twinkling. It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.”

Louis H Sullivan,  1896 “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered” Lippincotts Magazine (March 1896 403-409).

 Function is defined as an activity or purpose natural to or intended for a person or thing and that also has practical use or purpose in design.

With any system, a stable footing is critical.  When a foundational component is absent or compromised; the entire structure built on top will suffer.  In language, if basic words or pronunciation is lacking it will be very difficult to communicate.  If one of your basic motor skills or abilities is altered or compensating then many simple movements will be challenging.

Performance is best defined as the way someone or something functions. It’s your ability to execute an action, to accomplish something from conceptualization to actualization. The ease and quality of how we perform and access those abilities are how we evolve and the cornerstone of performance evolution.

Optimal health requires each point of reference, its actual mechanical position, or anatomical marker to be in its correct place relative to another specific point and gravitational force. If the tissue tension does not allow the points to be in this proper orientation (correct vertical and horizontal dimension) the result will be compensation and degeneration that occurs in every system including the neurologic, lymphatic and vascular functions.

Mathematics is the science of number, quantity & space and is a relationship or expression involving one or more variables.  We will use measurement of movement, symmetry and other indicators to help guide us.

Biomechanics analyze the structure and function of the biological systems by means of the methods of its mechanics. For mechanical longevity and understanding the physiology of regeneration you need to understand and appreciate the impact of physical forces like pressure, torque, friction and gravity.

LAB:  Foot and Ankle Joint Mobility:  see page 66 in the Workbook 

Ankle mobility is commonly restricted in people with pronated/flat feet posture.  A flat foot is simply a foot with decreased innervation in both the foot and hip musculature.  When the ankle joint is stiff, the body must compensate for the reduced motion by increasing movement at other locations. This compensation can happen in the joints below the ankle leading to excessive pronation and a collapsing of the arch. Or it can happen in the joints in the chain above and will demonstrate asymmetries and a domino effect of other problems not just limited to posture and movement but bone development as well which depends on establishing a particular perpendicular load.

The mobility of the foot is extremely complex. All 33 joints in the foot enable the ability to produce a zillion different foot positions.  A healthy foot creates the image in the brain very similar to sonar that directs the body’s core to engage to itself precisely and dynamically. When the feet are stiff and tight OR too lax and loose (or a complicated combination of both), the core is never being told how to turn on.  The result is awkward, uncoordinated, clumsy movement that cannot be blamed on an “aging” body.   When the subtalar joint eversion (flattening your arch) allows for a flexible, unstable and unlocked foot and conversely inversion provides a rigid, stable locked foot (rolling to the outside of the foot and increasing the arch).  Inversion is great for acceleration.  This transfer back and forth from inversion to eversion follows higher up the chain during movement.  When we’re not moving, we want to be in neutral foot posture (vertical Achilles or proper cant alignment), and we chart any deviations from this neutral stance.

Several studies show that limited dorsiflexion (toes up) impacts your ability to squat, to land properly from stepping down or to jump.   These are all building blocks of functional movement patterns and thus the importance of correcting ankle mobility and altered alignment is critical for optimal biomechanics.  As people tend to limit these activities as they age it creates a domino effect.  Use it or lose it.  When walking is compromised, a general lack of balance, coordination and energy efficiency in movement results. It is also linked to falls in elderly and overuse injuries in athletes.

LAB: Pendulum Swing:  see page 67 in the Workbook 

Remember, the best footwear is bare feet. A shoe will weaken the intrinsic musculature by limiting the motion of the ankle or can cause toe gripping which is already an overused action of the foot in response to lack of balance during dysfunctional gait patterns.  Most people are dealing with an anterior displacement in total mass (lean forward).  We need to develop our own natural arch support by strengthening the musculature of the foot which in turn will reactivate those parts of the brain. Use it or lose it principles ensure those unused cells will eventually atrophy.  Feet are designed to be dexterous like our hands and our toes should spread as our fingers do.

When the little intrinsic muscles of the feet become weak it causes flat feet, bunions, plantar fasciitis, hammertoes, and other dysfunctional foot postures. We need optimal alignment in the feet which leads to efficient push-off and overall gait as well as to maintain proper postural habits and correct shoe choices which allow our feet to move.   As previously stated, one-quarter of the bones and muscles are in the feet. Hallux valgus reduces the function of the foot causing tissues on the side to swell into what we call a bunion or bone spur in response to unnatural loading and using the joints in the wrong position.

Heavy heal strike induces concentrated compressive forces which cause another set of problems; degenerated discs in the spine, weakened pelvic floor, decreased mineral density in the bones, it deadens the sensation of the nerves in the feet and increases stress on a cellular level.

How do we optimize the posture and movement of the foundation of our bodies?  We start with a balanced foundation – the foot and the stance.


Are you in Approach or Avoidance? 


Every one of us has things we say we want to do… but don’t.  If you could have, you already would have—like already—like five years ago. We understand that sometimes we all need a hand, and that might be encouragement or guidance. In fact, if you tell your goals to non-judgmental people who care about you and value your wellbeing, you’re more likely to follow through and accomplish them. It’s also not always about discipline or willpower.  You’re not lazy, pathetic, or lame. You simply have a barrier in the way, and you may not even know what that is.  Even if it’s unconscious you can’t hide from it, but you must identify it and remove what’s in the way.

Avoidance becomes the big pink elephant in the room.  We’re not doing what we know we should be doing.  We are a nation that is often eating, sleeping, exercising, doing relationships, learning, and “careering” poorly – either rushing, multitasking or skipping it altogether.  We want to change – but most often we don’t know what’s in the way.  We have not been taught properly or how to approach difficult situations with confidence.  Often, we sidestep conflicts by blaming someone or something else OR by putting our heads in the sand – out of sight, out of mind. The Align’d Approach helps us prioritize – to focus on what to do and when to do it, so we can complete the actions in a healthy, efficient, and effective manner.   

Ultimately, we avoid because we feel unsupported.  We don’t have stability.  We go into avoidance to minimize risk – whether it’s genuine or perceived and all avoidance has you on your heels both literally and figuratively.  Your stance or how you stand says a lot about you, whether subconscious or deliberate.

Wide stance: in this position, you are more balanced and powerful and seen as dominant.  It is a defensive stance that gives you stability in case of attack.  Advantages – quicker side to side and cover more area therefore very helpful in sports.

  • Improves load for squats
  • Works a greater number of muscles
  • Greater activation of buttock muscles

Narrow Stance: this position is less balanced and stable.  Patellar tracking (kneecap) in this position means greater strain on the patellar tendon and eventually tendinitis.  Can be due to decreased ankle mobility.  Advantages – weight training doing deadlifts, the narrow vs wide stance changes the posterior chain usage.  Forces through the legs and gluts are more symmetrical and thus more efficient

Duck Foot: Adults usually become duck-footed due to sedentary lifestyle and injury which lead to torsional deformity (test if it is truly torsion at the tibia or fibula).  It can also be caused by flat feet.  Consequences of toeing out are pelvic tilt, not usually pain but muscles atrophy, and when left unchecked there is involvement of the lower leg, glutes, ankle, and knees.  It can lead to sciatica due to shortened piriformis (external rotator of the hip). 

Pigeon Toe: This stance usually stems from the hips.  Look for an internal tibial/femoral torsion and confirm laying down.  Also check if the foot itself is curved.  Used to use braces but it’s ineffective because musculature is being supported instead of activated.  To help correct this use a tape line and activate the appropriate muscles to align with the tape line.


Foot Foundations; stability and support 

Base of Support: When standing in neutral posture we have both feet in contact with the ground. If our feet are too close together, we will feel less stable than when they are spread apart. As movement is initiated, we automatically enhance our stability and mobility.

  • To brace against contact we widen our stance but with one foot in front of the other.
  • We crouch and lower our base – our center of gravity – to improve stability.
  • Bodyweight contributes to stability. The heavier the mass, the more stable it is.
  • The amount of frictional resistance between the ground and any contact points (e.g., foot or shoe) contributes to stability and mobility. Consider the difference between standing on ice or a rubberized court.

Our body is designed to provide structural support.  Our feet serve as the foundation to uphold the structural integrity of the weight of our body. In doing so, it in part helps maintains normal physiological balance of nutrient supply to the body which sustains life.

Without a solid foundation or base, the body will either break down or collapse over time. The design of the foot is such that it provides space and glide between the parts, allowing for the required room and adequate movement and growth. As well it keeps the body in an upright position with only a small amount of effort and exertion.

The arches provide vertical dimension in the body to support the body by distributing forces and stresses more equally for improved postural balance. A centered body minimizes the efforts of the feet to keep adjusting and shifting to keep us from collapsing or falling over. An elongated vertical dimension (pivot points) also decreases impact and promotes optimal communication through all systems and structures in the body. 

LAB:  Measure Base of Support: Measure the distance between your feet in finger breadths



 Proportion and the Golden Rule 

Proportion is a part considered in relation to the whole.

The human body is based on Phi (Φ = 1.68) and illustrates the Golden Section or Divine Proportion.

  • The Greeks called it the Golden Section and used it for beauty and balance in the design of architecture.
  • The Renaissance artists knew it as Divine Proportion and used it for beauty and design in art.

“Without symmetry and proportion there can be no principles in the design of any temple; that is, if there is no precise relation between its members, as in the case of those of a well-shaped man.”                         Vitruvius – De Architectura

The proportion that Vitruvius observed was that all humans are formed according to a ratio that is precise and uniform throughout the body.  Vitruvius discovered that the human face is one-tenth of the total body height and that the foot is one-sixth of the total body height and so on. The same ratio of Phi that Vitruvius saw in the human body was also later discovered by scientists and philosophers to exist in every part of nature from snails to planets.  Living cells reveal a highly ordered system of shapes and patterns. From the shape of DNA to the cornea of the eye, every part of the body follows the same predictable patterns. The design of life is based on the Golden Section.  As stated earlier, these patterns are NOT random and can be decoded to tell us where restrictions are – restrictions that if left unchecked can cause deep dysfunction.

The Modular is the proportioning system developed by the twentieth-century architect Le Corbusier to “maintain human scale everywhere.” He believed these proportions based on the Fibonacci series to be evident in the human body. The Fibonacci series is also the closest approximation in whole numbers to the Golden Section.


Resource: proportion and symmetry and their relationship to aggression  http://sciencenetlinks.com/science-news/science-updates/asymmetry-aggression/