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Can Pilates help your painful feet ?

Can Pilates help foot pain ?

Can Pilates help your Foot pain ?

Yes, Pilates can help your painful feet by improving the mechanics of the feet.

Our feet can become painful for a variety of reasons. Shoes that don’t fit right can be a cause, also wearing shoes that are not fit for purpose. 

Sports that impact the feet heavily like football, tennis, running, sprinting etc can cause the feet to become less elastic. The tightness in the feet and lower legs then creates even less elasticity and conditions like plantafascitis can occur.  Pregnancy can take a heavy toll on the feet with the increased weight on the feet and the hormone relaxin making the joints more mobile. We tend to pay little attention to our feet unless they start to hurt us.

We need to love our feet and treat them right. We often shut them up in shoes all day long and ignore them until they start to hurt.


Pilates pays special attention to the feet

Pilates pays special attention to the feet.
Pilates may be the only exercise method that pays really close and focussed attention to the feet. In Pilates we treat the feet as the foundation.
We even have specially designed toe strengtheners  (Joe’s Toe Gizmo https://www.pilates.com/store/accessories/products-for-the-feet/toe-gizmo) and arch strengtheners we call the “foot corrector” and rotating discs ( https://www.pilates.com/store/equipment-accessories/accessories/precision-rotator-discs-jumpboard ) created to help us improve the alignment of the feet and ankles.

Shoes are part of the problem

Shoes are part of the problem.

Shoes, even specially designed running shoes can prevent our feet from functioning correctly. Shoes can cut us off from noticing our feet, from using our feet correctly and also shoes can block the connection to our long leg muscles.The feet are intended to work as part of a long chain of joints and muscles that start at the hip.  When we interfere with the ergonomics of this long muscle chain, through shoes that prevent the natural movement of the feet, we cause problems for our whole structure. 

Problems with the feet, the gait and flexibility

We cause problems with our gait and the elastic recoil of the hamstrings and back line of the body through wearing shoes and neglecting our foot health. We can also cause painful problems like planta fasciitis from wearing unsupported or inflexible shoes or not rolling through the feet in walking, jogging and running. Calf cramps, hip and knee pain can also be caused by poor foot mechanics and shoes that inhibit good gait. We lose our youthful bounce and the easy stride of our youth as our feet weaken and lose their full range of movement. 

Barefoot culture is good for the feet, but...

Even wonderful barefoot cultures don’t mean the feet are completely problem free. There are less foot problems in the shoeless cultures but still arches collapse and weight is often distributed unevenly or in misalignment, with one foot bearing more weight and one foot rotated outwards.

Pilates Reformer restores form and funtion to feet

Pilates Reformer work can restore healthy feet and healthy foot function.

The Pilates Reformer has a foot bar which teaches us, through sensory feedback and repetition, to use our feet well and to strengthen the weak areas of our feet.  We call one of our fundamental exercises in Pilates “Foot Work” and we teach it in every Pilates Reformer and Pilates studio session.In Pilates we work the feet ( and whole muscle complex from the hips ) through a variety of positions on the Pilates Reformer. 


In Pilates Reformer Foot work we work the feet through a range of positions

On the Pilates Reformer in Foot Work we work the feet in flexion, on tip toes, in parallel, in external rotation, in wide and narrow stance. We also use internal rotation and the position we call “bird on a branch “ or “prehensile”. The prehensile position works the whole foot in a unique curved position. The arches of the foot are stretched and strengthened throughout their range. The whole muscle chain of the feet, legs and hips is active in Pilates Foot Work and challenged in eccentric and concentric contraction. In other words, the muscles are challenged when they lengthen as well as when they shorten.Most other exercise methods focus on strengthening the muscles when shortened or concentrically contracting.

Our Feet are our Foundation

The Foot is the Foundation.

When we say the feet are our foundation, we mean it, they are our support and connection to the earth. We negotiate gravity through minute adjustments of the many tiny bones and muscles of the feet. Our balance is affected by the health and strength of our feet and ankles too. Our ankles, knees and hips are affected for better or worse, by the alignment of our feet. In the Pilates studio we don’t wear shoes to work out. We work out without shoes so that we can feel, observe, adjust and actively strengthen the whole foot