When we experience pain in one muscle or group of muscles, we can often trace that discomfort to another part of the body. For instance, hip pain is sometimes caused by knee issues. So when a recent conversation with Dr. Jackie Sutera, DPM and a Vionic Innovation Lab member, and Juliet Kaska, a professional trainer and health/wellness expert, turned to topic of strengthening our feet in order to relieve pain, we were intrigued to learn that both women highly recommend toning your core muscles rather than doing a bunch of toe, foot or ankle exercises.
As Kaska explains, “Giving extra focus to the muscles in the abdominal region has lots of upsides. We stand up taller, our balance improves, our coordination improves and we experience less pain in our back, hips and knees when we properly engage our core muscles.” That improved coordination is key to helping all the muscles in your lower half find better balance, so no one muscle or muscle group is left trying to compensate for weaker spots. “Many aches and pains initially start because the core muscles aren’t strong, therefore other muscles have to do more work eventually becoming overworked, strained and/or spasm.”
Better balance and posture means more even and measured pressure on your hips, legs, knees, ankles and feet when you’re running, walking or even just standing at the stove cooking dinner. But don’t stress, this doesn’t mean you need to start doing crunches every morning or incorporating hard core ab workouts into your already busy schedule. “It doesn’t have to be a huge workout program,” stresses Kaska. “Just taking short sessions, even just two to three minutes throughout the day.”
To start, Dr. Sutera recommends balancing on one foot and engaging your core for 15 seconds, then switching over to the other foot. Do this for two minute intervals a few times throughout the day to add up to a full mini workout. It’s best to do this without holding onto anything, but if you need to place your hand on a countertop or shelf for now, that’s fine so long as you continue to use those abdominal muscles. As you get stronger, Dr. Sutera posed the extra challenge of going up on the ball of your foot without holding onto anything and balancing again for 15 seconds at a time.
“Unfortunately this isn’t something where you can just work on your core and then stop,” says Dr. Sutera. “This is a forever thing. But it can be comprised of simple things you slip into your day-to-day life, and if you stay dedicated to them, you’ll see real change.”
So if you’ve been dealing with a bit of plantar fasciitis or other undiagnosed foot pain, maybe try doing a little balancing act as you brush your teeth. (And stop walking around the house barefoot!)