Help Your Feet, Heal Your Body

Today I interviewed Annette Yen of Healthy Foot Coach . I’ve known Annette online for several years, mostly through our membership in Solo Masterminds (formerly Mom Masterminds).

Annette has a new project that I wanted to share. So many of us suffer from foot pain or other issues that have to do with alignment. About a year ago I started researching this topic because my husband began having heel pain due to plantar fascitis. I followed a rabbit trail on the internet and thankfully found Katy Bowman of the Restorative Exercise Institute. It turns out that many ailments we modern folks suffer from can be improved or even reversed through applying simple principles of proper alignment.

Annette is now a Healthy Foot Practitioner™ who received training through the Restorative Exercise Institute.

I think the information Annette shares is really important and useful to anyone with feet! I have personally benefited greatly from what I’ve learned so far about the connection between feet and overall body wellness .


- I love your new blog, HealthyFootCoach. What made you decide to launch it?

Annette: I’m so glad you like the blog. It’s always scary launching something new, especially when it’s totally out of the realm of what you’ve done in the past. But I’m excited and passionate about this and couldn’t wait to get it going.

When I started really to learn about alignment and specifically about how proper alignment in feet not only helps with feet issues but is the foundation for your entire body, I was hooked – and still am.

I started the blog when I officially began my certification studies.  I was becoming quite a pest with people who know me because I’m so passionate about this information and keep talking about it.  The blog is a way for me to share it all in a fun and hopefully helpful way.  But I’m still a pest to my friends and family!

- What are some of the common issues moms have with their feet, and what can they do to prevent problems?

Annette: Well of course there are the more well known issues like bunions, hammertoes, heel pain (plantar fasciitis) and just sore feet in general,  but what most moms and women in general don’t realize is that many other issues they may be experiencing, like knee and back issues and pelvic floor problems, can also be helped by starting with healthy foot positions, walking often and in the right way, foot exercises/stretches and good shoe choices.

- Personally, the sky high “hooker shoes” trend seems silly to me. Don’t women know how much they’re setting themselves up for problems when they wear these crazy shoes? I especially think pregnant women in heels look ridiculous. Now I know that women who are addicted to their heels anytime, much less during pregnancy, are more likely to be wearing Depends as they age. Can you explain the connection?

Flats Can Be Hot!

(photo source)

Annette: It’s funny, I used to envy women who wore heels all the time. Because I’m pretty tall, I’ve stayed away from higher heels just because I thought it made me look like a giant.  In hindsight, I’m so thankful because I can’t imagine how many more issues I would have if I had been wearing the 3″ pumps I’ve envied all my life!

Ok, confession time is over but, the short and simple answer to the “Depends” question is that our body is designed to stand straight up and down – picture a straight line from the top of your head down through your heel.

When one introduces a heel of any size, that straight line now is tipped angled (think geometry) and you have to “contort” your body to stand back upright and be able to stand, walk and function.  One of those adjustments occurs at the pelvis and the pelvis is where all those things that “Depends” are worn for happens.

That said, women who are “addicted” to heels often really are addicted to them.  Wearing heels all the time shortens the calf muscles and it can be very painful to go back to flats or barefoot without some focused stretching and body work.  But, women need to ditch the heels.  Because “Depends” are not fun and bladder control is not the only problem the high heel addicts will face as they age.

- Back when I didn’t know any better, I had bunion surgery. (I was tired of constant foot pain and being unable to find shoes that fit.)

The doctor didn’t tell me that the bunions would eventually come back, but it makes perfect sense now that I know more about alignment. Other than wearing flats and going barefoot a lot (which I do!), what can I do to help my feet?

Annette: I have bunions too.

Thankfully I found alignment and surprisingly, though I still have a pretty major bunion on my right foot, my feet look and feel much better now!

[Note from Carrie: Me too. In fact comparing my feet now to this picture, post-op, and the picture above, taken 2 years ago, my feet have actually improved a lot from staying out of heels and working on alignment!]

Going barefoot is the ideal and flats are great when you can’t be barefoot.  

[Note from Carrie: Could it be that there is much wisdom in the old saying, "Barefoot and pregnant"? LOL!]

The other piece would be doing some intentional foot stretching exercises and in particular, “holding hands” with your feet throughout the day.

[Note from Carrie: Since Annette told me about it I've been doing this exercise and it feels awesome!]

I have a couple of posts on my blog about that.  The other thing that will help is doing individual toe lifts – but I’ll be honest, those aren’t as easy as they sound.

Even after 2 years of studying and practicing my foot alignment  I’m still working on those toe lifts!

And, of course, walking.  Walking correctly, that is.  Bunions are often formed because of faulty gait patterns over time – the foot rolling outside to inside in particular – along with too tight of a toe box in our shoes which crams those toes together.

And moms need to keep in mind that we’re trying to back ourselves out of habits (foot position, gait patterns, etc) that we’ve practiced for almost our entire lives. So even if she does the exercises, it’s pretty much guaranteed that when she’s not intentionally thinking about alignment, she is (we are) slipping back into those old habits.  It may take quite some time to get complete relief but I’m continually surprised at how quickly I find marked improvement in my foot issues when I work on my alignment exercises.

And because the movements are so easy and can be done pretty much anywhere, I can slip my stretches in without anyone knowing I’m “working” – while chatting on the phone, typing, standing in line at the grocery store and more!

Thanks Annette! I look forward to learning more from your blog.

Also recommended:

* Katy Bowman’s book, Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet

* I mention how I benefited tremendously from doing alignment exercises during my pregnancy.

What about you? Do you have any foot or overall alignment questions for Annette?

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5 Responses to Help Your Feet, Heal Your Body

  1. Very interesting! I enjoy walking and hope I do it correctly – habits are hard to break! I would love to have you share this on Thursday at Tasty Traditions:

  2. Rebecca says:

    My bunions are pretty extreme and I am contemplating surgery. Its so bad that my big toe gets bruised if I walk any considerable distance in any shoe (usually sneakers.) I never wore heels. Will exercises help restore my feet or is it too late and I will need surgery to jump start my recovery?

  3. Annette says:

    Hi Rebecca – thanks for your question. The short answer I have, without knowing more about you or your feet is avoid surgery if you can. As Carrie mentioned in the post, bunions can and will “return” even after surgery if you’re not correcting the reason they’re there in the first place. Are you in consistent pain? Do your sneakers and other shoes have a wide enough toe box that you can freely wiggle and spread your toes? Do you wear flip flops in the summer (a big no no)?

    Exercises and working on your foot and whole body alignment will certainly improve the situation. My bunions are still there but my feet feel and look so much better after really focusing on my alignment work.

    This week I’ll work up a post on my blog specifically for bunion work for you so feel free to follow over at the blog or shoot me an email and I’ll send you the link when it’s up: coach at healthyfootcoach dot com.

  4. Rebecca says:

    I will definitely look at your blog for the exercises. I am still on the fence about the surgery, but it won’t happen until the summer anyway due to my husband’s work schedule and the pain is something I have to deal with daily – so any info about any exercises that might help will be appreciated.
    I didn’t know that flip flops were bad, but I have never worn them. I just can’t because they give me horrible blisters almost immediately. Mainly I wear sneakers or go barefoot. Really, I am looking forward to your post!

  5. Rebecca says:

    I just checked out your website! I am also in NW Illinois….when will you start classes?

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