The Link Between Foot Health and Posture

Many people believe that poor posture is purely due to problems with the biodynamics of the trunk, such as your upper and lower back or your neck and shoulders. However, postural problems are actually associated with all parts of your body’s various kinetic chains – starting from the feet up.

Common foot conditions or deformities can negatively impact your posture, leading to discomfort in your hips, back, shoulders, and neck. Your feet are the foundation of your entire body, and, as is true with buildings, a solid base allows you to balance and align your body correctly, helping prevent postural problems from developing.

The Link Between Foot Health and Posture

How are the feet and posture connected?

Foot conditions primarily affect posture by changing your gait; if you feel pain in your feet or are unstable when walking, you’ll subconsciously adjust the way you walk. Improper alignment your foot structure (even if it doesn’t cause discomfort) can also cause bad posture as it affect your balance. Some foot and ankle conditions influence foot posture and everything further up the musculoskeletal chain.

Flat foot posture

Flat feet occur when the arches of your feet fall or flatten under pressure. Pronation (the rolling of the foot inwards) naturally occurs when you walk or run and absorbs some of the impact of your feet hitting the ground. In the case of flat feet, overpronation occurs — the foot rolls too far inward when you walk.

Overpronation from flat feet affects the pelvis and, eventually, the lower and upper back. Improper weight distribution due to overpronation can cause poor posture, ankle pain, and pelvic tilt, increasing the chance of injury to the hip, knee, and lumbar region. Custom orthotics, which can be slipped into your shoes, may help alleviate pain and support low arches.

What happens if you have high arches?

Also known as cavus foot, high arches are the opposite of flat feet and are when the arch of the foot is higher than normal. Not only can high arches cause pain in your heel, arch, and ball of your foot, but they can also affect your posture.

High arches may cause your heel to roll inward during weight-bearing activities, leading to instability in the ankles, pelvis, and lumbar spine, affecting your balance and gait. This instability can cause pain in your knees and hips or lower back pain. Abnormalities in foot pronation put you at higher risk of developing ankle sprains. Orthotic devices or corrective shoes to support high arches can improve the way you walk and give you good posture.

Bunions and posture

A bunion is a bump at the base of your big toe. Bunions result from misalignment of bones in the toes and ball of your foot. The top of your big toe begins to move toward your second toe, increasing pressure on the big toe joint and causing it to stick out. Bunions may be painful and cause footwear to fit improperly.

While a bunion is on the side of your foot, it can still change how you move and stand. As your big toe moves out of alignment, the bones in your forefoot can begin to spread out, changing your posture and gait. You may also find yourself walking and standing more on the outside of your foot to relieve pressure on the bunion. Doing so can lead to discomfort further up the structural chain, including pain in your ankles, knees, hip joints, and lower back. Changing your footwear, such as avoiding high heels, may help with bunion pain. Simple pads or cushions can also alleviate pressure and discomfort. However, if these changes don’t work, surgery may be recommended.

Morton’s neuroma

Morton’s neuroma is a benign growth that causes pain in the ball of the foot, generally between the third and fourth toes. It is caused by the thickening of the tissue surrounding one of the nerves in your forefoot. You may feel like you are standing on a small stone and have a burning and tingling sensation radiating into your toes.

Naturally, your body may try to reduce pressure on the affected foot, which can lead to changes in your gait. Abnormal walking affects almost every part of the biomechanics chain, potentially leading to pain from your ankles to your neck and shoulders. Additionally, if movement becomes too painful, you may stop exercising, adversely affecting your overall health. While conservative treatments like arch supports, pads for the balls of your feet, and roomy shoes may help, in some cases, corticosteroid injections or surgery may be required.

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Corns and calluses

Corns and calluses are hard patches of thickened skin on the edges of the feet, the top of the toes, or the outside of the little toe from repeated pressure or friction. If corns become painful or infected, you may unconsciously adjust your gait to alleviate pain and pressure. A shift in your gait can cause a change in bone alignment and posture, often resulting in pain.

Changing your footwear to reduce rubbing may be all that’s needed to remedy corns and calluses. Our doctors can also recommend protective pads or medicated patches and, in some cases, trim your corns.

Does hammertoe affect walking?

A bend in the middle joint of the toe (hammertoe) or the joint closest to the toenail (mallet toe) can force the toe upward, resulting in a callus or corn. These conditions are often caused by wearing poor footwear but may also result from an injury or ligament condition.

An awkwardly bent toe rubbing against your shoe can be painful enough to change your gait. Even slight changes in your gait can significantly impact your bone alignment and biomechanics. If you subconsciously shift your weight to your heels while walking to eliminate pressure on the ball of your foot, you may experience sciatic nerve pain that begins in your lumbar area and radiates through your pelvis and down your leg.

While roomier shoes and pads or inserts may help decrease friction on your toe, surgery to release the tendon that is causing the toe to curl is often the only way to completely remedy hammertoe or mallet toe.

Plantar fasciitis posture impact

The plantar fascia is the thick band of tissue on the bottom of your foot that extends from your toes to your heel bone. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot issues and is a painful inflammation of the band, generally caused by overuse or overstretching.

Plantar fasciitis can affect your gait, as it is usually most painful at the start of exercise. However, it generally eases up during exercise and returns when you’re at rest.

Plantar fasciitis treatment first involves decreasing your activity levels to give the tissue time to heal. After the resting phase, working with a physical therapist can help fix imbalances within your lower extremities, lessening the chances of reoccurrence. Taking anti-inflammatory medications and wearing braces in the short term may also help. For severe cases, surgery may be an option.

Heel spurs

A heel spur (plantar calcaneal spur) is a bony protrusion on the bottom of your heel bone. It’s caused by calcium deposits on the heel bone caused by repeated stress injuries to the muscles, ligaments, and covering membrane. Heel spurs may lead to heel pain and plantar fascia discomfort as they grow.

Due to the discomfort, you may shift your weight toward the front of your foot, affecting the alignment of your bones further up the musculoskeletal chain, such as your ankles, pelvis, and spine. Misalignment and extra strain on these areas can lead to low back pain and sciatica.

To reduce pain from heel spurs, our doctors suggest using night splints, modifying your activity, wearing orthotics, and using anti-inflammatory medications. If these nonsurgical treatments fail, they may advise surgery to remove the spur.

Choose University Foot & Ankle Institute for healthy feet and posture

The podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons at the University Foot and Ankle Institute have vast experience with all manner of foot problems that can affect your posture and gait. In addition, we have ample experience with custom orthotics, biomechanical assessments of foot alignment, and minimally invasive surgery of the foot and ankle to help get you pain-free and back to a healthy lifestyle.

For a consultation, please call (877) 736-6001 or make an appointment online now.

University Foot and Ankle Institute is conveniently located throughout Southern California and the Los Angeles area. Our foot and ankle surgeons are available at locations in or near Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, the San Fernando Valley, El Segundo, the South Bay, LAX, Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, Valencia, Santa Clarita, and Santa Barbara

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