Corinne Austin | Personal Training

Footloose & Fancy Free

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the importance of our humble feet.  In my eyes they’re our unsung heroes.


Our feet are one of our most under-appreciated parts of our mechanics.  They are our foundation – our main contact points with the ground upon which we walk, live and survive.  And when they work well, we barely notice them – just as you’d very rarely notice the foundation upon which amazing architecture is constructed – until something above that foundation begins to crumble…


To help us appreciate the foot’s importance in our world, let’s take a close-up look at the brilliance and magnificence of the design of our foot – it truly is a miracle of biomechanical engineering.  Our foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than a hundred muscles, tendons and ligaments combined.  It has such a solid foundation that our feet can support up to five times our bodyweight under impact conditions such as running and jumping, and can quite exquisitely execute foot function and stability through the thousands of different movements we expose our body to on a day to day basis.  To date, no artificial intelligence has yet been able to replicate the amazing performance of the human foot, yet we treat it like some form of evolutional blunder that needs correcting.  We haphazardly throw purportedly sophisticated, high-tech, design-specific shoes, orthotics and other gadgets at our feet to help them be healthy and strong, when, in most cases, this has a crippling effect on the inherent nature of the masterpiece that is our foot!

In an average lifetime, the average person walks approximately 100,000 miles.  This reason alone should prompt the idea of looking after our feet in the same way we look after our fingernails, our skin, or our pelvic floors.  Just because they are the most distant part of our body doesn’t mean we should neglect them.  When our feet don’t function properly it can cause big problems further up the chain of the human body – everyone knows the song ‘the heel bone connects to the ankle bone, the ankle bone connects to the knee bone…’.  When one part of our body fails, other areas in our body have to take up the slack.  A sore knee, hip, lower back or neck can all be a result of feet that don’t work properly.  Our bodies are that incredible.


We were born and designed to move without the need for cushioned, insulated shoes that we’ve become accustomed to wearing.  In fact, we’ve been so brainwashed by the need for shoes that many of us think being barefoot is weird, hippie, or alternative.  The modern-day convenience of shoes places our bodies in dysfunctional and unnatural positions for extended periods of time and our body has no option but to accommodate and adapt to this.  This disconnects us from our natural foundations, puts our kinetic chain from the ground up out of alignment and proper sequencing, and leads to various forms of pain and dysfunction.  Otherwise known in my world as ‘sensory deprivation chambers’, shoes render the many duties of our feet dormant or obsolete – when our feet are in shoes they’re not exposed to the abundance of external stimuli that they need to be able to communicate important messages to our body.  The mechanoreceptors in our feet tell our body to activate certain pathways and musculoskeletal connections, and stimulate things such as our breathing, pelvic floor, and the bigger chains of muscles.  When our feet are in shoes they become insulated from the potential information from the ground upon which we stand, and therefore the communication pathways between our feet and our body are jeopardised.  This has greater repercussions than many of us are aware… until we begin to experience pain or other ailments.

Footwear and running shoes are a part of everyday life.  But has the advent of them lead to the deterioration of natural properties and obligations of our feet?  You’d think the modern-day running shoe would reduce risk of running ailments in a runner.  However, more runners struggle with shin splints, knee and hip problems, and other nagging ailments than ever before.  Let’s consider our arch for a moment – it’s the foots most notable architectural structure.  If we understand the engineering of an arch in an architectural sense we know that the arch is a miracle – the more weight you put on it the stronger it becomes.  But the opposite is also true – if you place force upon it from underneath it ruins the strength of the arch almost immediately.  Yet, what do most modern-day running shoes market – arch support!  If your arch needs support your best action is to understand what’s lead to it becoming weak and therefore how you can re-strengthen it naturally.


One of the best ways we can positively affect foot health is to get them out of footwear as often as we can.  I’m not suggesting you adopt a ‘hippie’ approach to life by any stretch – we all still need to look professional in our career duties and responsibilities, and there is the safety element in a lot of environments too.  However, I’m referring to when you’re at home, or running around with the kids, or doing a workout, or actually simply just dedicating ten minutes of your day to exposing your feet to a variety of different textures and stimuli and re-awakening them.  Allowing your feet to explore the different surfaces and environments in the way they were designed to is great for our health – physically, physiologically, and energetically too.


Let’s let our feet loose. Let’s reconnect with our roots. And in doing so let’s reconnect with our bodies and feel the changes we experience as a result.


  • Corinne Austin
  • Movement & Health Coach