Susannah Taylor: How fit are your feet?
Do you exercise your feet? I don’t mean walking to the shops. I mean doing exercises that help your feet function correctly. No, me neither. However, after speaking with super-glamorous 66-year-old Yamuna Zake, who has been a physiotherapist and teacher of body sustainability for 40 years, and whose new book The Foot Fix* was released this month, giving your feet a workout seems so obvious I’m left wondering why I don’t.
Yamuna travels the world getting people’s bodies to function optimally and helping them overcome debilitating injuries. Unlike the majority of the population, she also loves feet. She says, ‘I have been talking to people about fixing their back or sore hips for so many years and what I’ve learnt is that a lot of the issues stem from our feet.’
Yamuna finds that when she gets people working on their feet, they then notice their lower back is feeling better, for example. ‘What many people don’t realise is that your body is a chain of events, so if you unwind your feet you can feel improvements all the way up.’
I tell her I have a bunion that I think is a result of a skiing injury to my knee six years ago. She tells me I’m most probably correct because the injury would have caused misalignment in my foot. When I tell Yamuna that I was sent to see a foot specialist who told me to wear orthotics in my shoes with no other advice, she says, ‘We can’t rely on any shoe to make our feet better; we need to build the muscles up and make sure we are standing and walking correctly. We go to the gym to strengthen our body – why not our feet, which are the most used part of our bodies?’ She also explains this is most important as we get older, since our bone structure starts to change and our muscles start to diminish.
This is where The Foot Fix comes in. The book is a four-week plan, where you spend just 15 minutes a day over a month learning to get your feet fabulously functional. Each week focuses on a different area: the heel, the arch, the ball and the toes. As you move through the plan you ‘wake up’ each part of your foot. Yamuna also takes us through two basic practices: the Walking Test, which reveals the parts of your feet that aren’t firing up properly, and the Power Stance, which aligns your feet correctly and begins to build and strengthen arches.
You don’t have to have a foot problem to benefit from Yamuna’s exercises; in fact, she tells me how the elite athletes she has treated over the years find that once their foot function improves, their whole performance is boosted.
And is wearing high heels that bad, I ask? ‘No,’ she says. ‘Just don’t make them your runaround shoe.’ She tells me she’s an ‘extreme fashionista’ and definitely dons high heels for a night out. ‘I then take them off and do what I tell clients to do: “Walk the shoes out of my feet.”’ By this she means she goes around barefoot (she recommends walking barefoot at home as much as possible).
Above everything, Yamuna’s book will help you to be more mindful of your feet, which quite literally carry us through life but are probably (and quite shamefully) the most neglected part of our bodies.
View one of Yamuna’s Foot Fitness videos at yamunausa.com
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*The Foot Fix by Yamuna Zake is published by Watkins Media, price £14.99. To order a copy for £13.19 until 7 February, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £15.