The picture attached shows the body proportionally to the density of nerve endings per body part. When looking at it think from an evolutionary standpoint. How would each of the oversized body parts help primitive man survive? Four organ systems are oversized in the picture. The mouth and lips, the hand, the genitals (edited off the pic for FB) and the foot. I think we can all easily come up with evolutionary reasoning for high levels of sensitivity at the first three, but why the feet? Why is feeling there so important?
Up till now, I’ve presented facts. Today, I venture into the theoretical. So let’s start with what is known. When we are born, as you can see in the picture, we have massive amounts of proprioreceptive nerve endings in the foot, and a proportional amount of brain space devoted to interpreting that data. In developed countries (those of us that wear shoes) by the time we are 18 that amount of brain space, depending on the research you’re reading, has been reduced by up to 60%.
Now comes our favorite question, why? The reason for the reduction is simple, we wear shoes all the time. From a neural input perspective that is comparable to wearing thick mittens for 15 straight years on your hands. You become accustomed to feeling less. With the lack of neural input, the brain devotes less and less space to listening. Now we move to the really important “why,” and this answer is simply my theory. Why are the feet SO important in the beginning? I believe the answer is that our body is meant to use feedback from the feet to tell our brains when anything else is out of alignment. Think about it, every other set of joints from the knee, to the pelvis, to the spine has its function effected by the joints both above and below it in the system. They also have a substantially lower concentration of proprioreceptors. The feet are the primary source for interaction with an outside force (the earth), and have the highest concentration of nerve endings. What else would the body be using to establish a baseline for its alignment?
Here is where this has HUGE implications. If the feet were meant to tell the body if it is in alignment, and by the age of 18 the neural space devoted to interpreting that feedback is reduced by 60%, how are our bodies supposed to realign themselves? We’ve systematically taken away our primary natural feedback system! Once again this is my theory, but logically the answer is that we have to maximize our time barefoot, and really focus on re-establishing our foot’s relationship with the ground.
If we accept my hypothesis then the key to re-centering our joints and rebuilding our posture lies in not only training barefoot but in establishing a protocol that emphasizes retraining the foot to “listen” to the earth. I may be wrong, but I believe this changes everything in terms of how we view not only sports performance training, but corrective and therapeutic movement as well.
Just something to think about, and I am very open to differing opinions on the subject. Please feel free to challenge my hypothesis. It is after all the only way we learn.
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