In the first part of this blog we explored the why of the anatomy of walking, and today we’ll dive into the how. While the entire body is involved in proper gait alignment and biomechanics , let’s start with the foundation: your feet and ankles. When speaking about the gait(walk) cycle we break it up into the swing phase and the stance phase. The swing phase occurs every time your foot leaves contact with the ground and is swinging through to take the next step.
The stance phase is divided up into three different parts: the heel strike, mid-stance, and finally the heel lift. A heel strike is the initial moment of shock absorption, and we begin to pronate (flattening of inner arch) to accommodate the different surfaces we might encounter. As we shift into mid stance the entire foot makes contact with the ground and we center our weight over the foot.
The final part of the stance phase is when we lift our heel and prepare to push off and enter the swing phase. During the heel lift the foot supinates (rolling outwards and the arch lifts) and acts as a propeller to spring you forward into your next step.
There is quite a bit of mobility required to execute a proper gait cycle. The normal range of motion in the feet and ankles is 20 degrees of dorsiflexion, 60 degrees of plantar flexion, 15 degrees of eversion, and 35 degrees of inversion, and 65 degrees of extension in your big toe. If any one of these aspects is lacking there will be compensation, which can lead to irritation in the feet, ankles, and/or anywhere up the chain.
Thankfully, Yoga Tune Up® has a variety of self massage techniques and exercises to create mobility, awareness, and relieve pain in your feet. This awesome video with Jill Miller will be a serious treat for your feet, while simultaneously working balance and spinal alignment. Get ready to walk on!
Walking is such a normal thing for us but thanks to this article I can understand better how it works. Interesting to learn that if our range of motion if not good enough we can compensate and create problem in our whole body… I already saw a big difference with the rolling. Before I wasn’t able to spread my toes!
Thanks for this Sara! I always wondered which stage pronation and supination came in the foot strike. Thanks for clairifying that pronation comes before supination and that we need proper mobility in the foot for the biomechanics of the gait cycle to work properly and prevent injuries!
I’ve been rolling my feet now for almost 3 years and have seen my feet widen over time! I’ve also heard this from some of my clients. It is proof for me that my feet were cramped from wearing such tight shoes and not to mention the heels I wore almost every day in my corporate job for 11 years. This most certainly impacted my gait. So much so that I started to develop a bunion on my left foot only. Gone now, no surgery!
This article and your previous one also made me think about the YTU hip strengthening and mobilizing exercises like Moon Rising/Rising Moon. Our feet and our gait are also impacted significantly by our hips. Weak hip muscles and imbalances in our hip muscles will impact the way our feet land as well. And you’re so right about the whole chain being affected. The knee joint is in the middle of the feet/ankle and hips so gait, weaknesses and immobility will certainly take it’s toll on the knees as well!
Thanks for pointing out how important mobility is for the gait cycle. If we don’t have the proper ranges, our compensations can create many problems up the chain.
It’s amazing to close the eyes and visualize the gait after reading what is happening on the anatomical level while we walk. It’s so easy to take for granted how complex but efficient the body is. It also highlights how imbalances or weaknesses in the foot can translate at the body, and vice versa: how injuries or imbalances in the body will translate to the feet. The body can really tell us so much if learn to listen and read it!
Thank you! As a yoga and dance teacher, I see all kinds of variations of feet! I always say….if your FEET are happy the rest of your body will feel better, too!
Thank you for this ang for thé vidéo ! As a runner and a New YTU user, I thank this exercice and this informations can be really helpul in the futur ! Being more conscious of my feet and taking care of them is starting today !
I’ve had numerous ankle sprains and found that rolling out my feet, in particular, has done wonders for improving my feet and ankle health – thanks for the great article.
Sara, thanks so much for the ankle ROM information. It’s crazy how little ROM many people have in this joint. No wonder there are so many with pain in their feet. We got to take care of our “dogs”, they carry us around all day. More people should learn these techniques – Let’s spread the word. Maybe people will be nicer to each other, if they don’t have sore feet.
It’s good to know the healthy range of motion in the feet and ankles stats! That gives me a better idea what to look for in students to be more precise than tight or not, haha. Love these foot massage techniques!
This is a great article! Thank you for sharing, Sara. Most people do not understand how important our feet really are! I look forward to practising the movements in the video you shared. I currently have plantar fasciitis, but I am working with my YTU balls to correct that – so this is very helpful for me.
I think that feet are super important. I always start my dance class by being aware of them and exploring all their options.
When we do floor work, I always say that hands are to the floor what are feet are when we are standing and that those are use to guide us throw space and by thinking of our feet more it brings us back to our animal instinct
I weekly teach a class on balance alignment and motion and am always looking for different ways to present the concept of balance and the importance that our feet play in all three of those proprioceptive connections. I will definitely be sharing the content of this video with my class. Thank you!
Thanks for your information on what the normal range of motion is in the feet/ankles. As someone who has limited dorsiflexion I know have compensation patterns that need to be addressed – I feel them all the time in yoga! Goals – squat with heels down.
I have rolled out my feet and taught others as well but always in a seated position, wow what a difference it makes when you actually stand on the balls!
Thanks for the post and information about the range of motion of the foot and especially the self massage techniques.
Funny but I used to do similar massage to the arch of my foot using the edge of the step . It was so pleasant, although ball would be much more effective.
The feet are such an important part of our bodies Sara! Thanks for outlining what the normal ROM of the ankle and first metatarsal is for executing a proper gait cycle. Too often we, as a society, wear restrictive shoes that limit and impact our ability to properly pronate and supinate throughout each phase of gait. I look forward to trying out some of the movements in the video.
Thank you! I will di this with my fencing students. I’ve been working on increasing ankle ROM with them. These exercises will help a lot.
My observation is the same as Shari’s. My there is a lot of variation when it comes to feet! This thought also comes to mind when trying to purchase properly fitting shoes. So, the average ROM for the various actions of the foot is a useful tool in the toolbox. Thank you.
Nice video! My feet have been transformed by these exercises, stripping forward and back, everting/inverting with pressure, smearing, … For me an important part has been to use the ball to help separate the toes. This was important because as a child and young adult, I believed a familial myth that narrow feet ran in the family. In my mid-60s, the therapy balls and the exercises have helped me systematically restore my feet. This is a marvelous adjunct to any yoga program!
Thanks, this is a great article and also a great exercise for every human. Yesterday we were hiking and so I tried this exercise to refresh may feet.
thank you! great to learn the “normal” ROM for foot DOM. I notice student’s feet all the time and I’m fascinated at how different every body is. My consensus is many people have super tight feet! Lack mobility in both plantar and dorsi flexion making downward dog, lunges, and even cobra a challenge from the start!
Thank’s a lot. I will do this with my séniors group this week. Up there mobility for the winter to come