The Influence of Foot Position on Standing and Balance
When you first learned to stand as a toddler, it was through trial and error. With practice, you learned to balance over your feet and then you learned how to propel yourself forward with steps. After some spills and awkward moments, standing and walking eventually became habitual. Most people subconsciously developed poor habits and never modified that learned technique. As adults, they find that their feet ache after standing for extended periods of time. With a few simple changes, you can learn to use physics to improve your standing technique and decrease the stress on your joints and muscles.
Tripod of the Foot
To stand upright, you must balance your body over your feet. Your spine should be aligned over your pelvis, with your weight evenly distributed between your feet. Many people stand with more weight over one foot or with their weight over only part of their feet. While standing, become aware of your feet. You should feel even pressure on the balls of your big toes, little toes and heels. This is the tripod of your foot. If you feel more pressure on one of these points, you are not in alignment. Relax your toes and knees and adjust your weight so the tripods of both feet feel equal pressure.
Base of Support
Your body is stable when your line of gravity and your center of gravity are over your base of support -- your feet and the space between them. To find your line of gravity, imagine a plumb line hanging perpendicular to the floor and through your center of gravity, dissecting your body into right and left halves. The least stable position for balancing is over one foot or with the feet together. This is because the base of support is narrower. As you move your feet wider apart, your base of support becomes larger and your stability improves.
When standing, your feet should be parallel and at least 3 inches apart. Because the angle of the ankle joint varies between people, a slight turnout of the ankle -- no more than 10 degrees -- may be present. To prevent pronation or supination, focus on keeping the arches of your feet lifted and relaxed and slight pressure on the outside edges of your feet. Your toes should be relaxed and aligned. If you find it difficult to maintain this neutral foot position, try relaxing your big toes and knees and tilt your pelvis into a neutral position.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice these new feet positions whenever you are standing. With increased awareness of your feet and the alignment of your knees, hips, spine, shoulders and head over them, your body will adjust to the new positions and modify your old standing habits.
- Fall Proof; Debra Rose
- Physical Therapy: Getting Into Balance, Dec/Jan 1996, 33-36.
- ACE Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist Manual; American Council on Exercise
- Journal of Biomechanics: The Influence of Foot Position on Standing Balance
Cindy Killip is a health and fitness specialist, health coach, author and speaker who has been teaching and writing about exercise and wellness since 1989. She authored "Living the BONES Lifestyle: A Practical Guide to Conquering the Fear of Osteoporosis." Killip holds multiple certifications through the American Council on Exercise and degrees in communications and sociology from Trinity University.