How to improve your posture and what your feet have to do with it
For most of us when we think of “posture” we visualize a person’s upper-back hunch while sitting at their desk, or slouching against the wall while you wait for your order number to be called at the cafe. In fact many struggle with posture these days but not all are aware of what factors play into it. This may come to you as a surprise, but your feet are strongly correlated to the shape of your spine and body position.
Paying attention to your feet can make a huge difference in your posture, prevent potential foot and ankle injuries, and improve your overall health.
How do feet affect posture?
Whether you’re standing, walking, jumping, or even sitting, the alignment of your feet actually matters. In addition, the way you hold your spine, neck, chest, and hips affect your feet. Hunching the shoulders is common and may feel natural to many, but detrimental to your health. Strengthening the core and back muscles while being mindful of your posture can prevent foot and ankle problems down the road.
Moreover, posture and foot placement can also affect other systems in the body such as the nervous system, digestive system, cardiovascular system, and respiratory system. Many of us don’t recognize our shortness of breath or inability to deeply inhale can be caused by poor postural habits. Correct posture is crucial for the body’s metabolism and basic functions.
By understanding this correlation within your body it will allow you to take control of your body’s positioning and stature.
What are the primary causes of bad posture?
There can be a wide variety of factors causing bad posture, but here are some of the most common:
Stress is often expressed by curling inwards as the body’s natural way of coping.
Shoes that have poor support or wearing heels that alter the positioning of the foot can put stress on the body’s weight distribution.
Pregnancy can lead to bad posture due to weight shifting in the body requiring more effort to be conscious of.
Weak stabilizing muscles, such as the back and core, can cause poor posture due to lack of use and flexibility.
Poor ergonomic work environment such as an uncomfortable desk or chair function, or tools used that may influence the lack of good posture.
Common conditions of foot structure that may contribute to poor posture:
Higher foot arches cause more pressure on the front of foot, which makes the body counteract by leaning backwards, potentially causing lower back pain.
Lower foot arches or “flat” feet cause the foot to roll inwards towards the ground, placing stress on lower extremities like the feet, ankles, hips, and lower back.
Heel spurs and other foot conditions as well as shin splints can also contribute to poor posture.
It’s safe to argue that the shape of your foot may be hereditary, yes, but it’s important to look outwards and observe your lifestyle habits/environment that can be modified under your control. Ask your podiatrist for tips on optimal body and feet placement for doing certain tasks if you are struggling.
Fix posture, from the ground up!
Posture is something you may have to make an effort to remind yourself of, especially if you’re already in the habit of it. When thinking about your posture, imagine all parts of the body affecting it, from the position of your feet to the alignment of your head.
When sitting, keep both feet flat on the ground–your knees should be at a 90-degree angle and align right above the ankles, not over them. Your back and hips should be against the chair, and adding lumbar support like a cushion to encourage the natural shape of your lower spine is helpful. Be mindful of your neck support and shoulders should be relaxed, but pulled across and down the back. If you are sitting at a computer, keep your forearms parallel to the floor and make sure the screen is viewed above eye level to keep your head tilted up.
When standing, your posture should look like a straight line from the ankles, to hip, to shoulders. Creating a slight bend in the knee is optimal to prevent circulation from being cut off to the legs. Hold the weight of your body mostly on the balls of your feet. Your feet placement should be about shoulder-width apart. Lastly, engage your core to protect your back, lift up your chest, and drop the shoulder blades back.
It’s important to stay active and keep moving. If you are used to a sedentary lifestyle or sit down for long hours of the day, make an effort to stand up and walk around often to maintain postural support and circulation. This will also relieve unnecessary stress on your body and feet.
Correcting your gait
Gait is simply defined as the way we “walk”. Walking is important for good posture. Similarly to standing, walking involves pulling in the core and holding shoulders back, but the feet and ankles are involved.
Look, if your gait isn’t the best, just know it can easily be corrected. Simply paying attention as to how you’re walking is a good start. A “waddle” type walk, feet dragging on the ground, or leaning forward or backward can place stress on your feet and ankles, while of course affecting the rest of your body.
It is highly recommended to visit a specialist, preferably your friendly podiatrist, to gain insight on gait abnormalities. Your doctor can help you study your habitual harmful movements and give personalized suggestions to help correct them.
It is a great idea to strengthen the body and create a mind to muscle connection through exercise. Here are some easy exercises to try at home to improve your gait:
Work on balance. Yoga is one of the best forms of exercise for strengthening and improving postural balance. If you’re not a yogi, research another type of workout that promotes balance and stability that might interest you.
Stretch it out on a regular basis. Focus on loosening up your feet and ankle sockets, as well as your calves working upwards throughout the body to build a more fluid foundation.
When walking, focus on doing so on the balls of your feet instead of a “heel-first” gait. Walking heel-first places a majority of your weight over your heels which impacts posture.
Be mindful of the alignment of your feet as you walk. Yes, it may seem silly, but it’s important! Avoid having your toes point inward or outwards as you walk.
Wear orthotics. Thanks to our beloved podiatrists, we can get access to special tools that help our body readjust the distribution of weight causing the issue. Orthotics are customized to you only, so you know it’s made with purpose.
Your posture can promote overall well being
When you start to prioritize your posture, you’ll find your quality of life can be significantly improved. As mentioned, a huge factor in bad posture stems from simply the placement of your feet. You can achieve overall wellness in this department by practicing the exercises suggested in this article, consult with your podiatrist for advice and/or treatment, and most importantly remember to stand up straight, from the feet up.