I just recently finished teaching a class on the structure of the foot. It is fascinating to me how much abuse the feet can take. We daily demand that they carry us through our lives and rarely do we thank them with a reflexology session, a foot rub, or even a good soaking.
After class I realized I had left out some vital information. Education on the triangles of the feet.
If you place your foot down on the ground you will notice a peculiar thing. Your foot should be shaped like a triangle with the heel (calcaneus) being the peak and the toes the base. Now put any standard pair of woman's or men's dress shoes near by and notice. Hum the triangle goes in the opposite direction with the peak being at the front. Who designed this? And what were they thinking? Now we can go into all sorts of theories with the predominate one being sex but I'm not going to open that can of worms in this post.
There are three bones that all students of yoga, tai chi, and qi gong are familiar with. These bones form your triangle of support and balance. They are the calcaneus (heel), the base of the 5th metatarsal (ball of foot under pinky toe), and the base of the 1st metatarsal (ball of the foot under great toe). When you are standing still you should be giving equal weight to all these bones with compensations for balance being made between the 1st and 5th. If this triangle is compromised due to foot deformities caused by shoes or injuries a person will most likely feel unbalanced while standing and walking at all times. This, in my opinion, will further lead them to feel unbalance in their whole life.
To strengthen both the feet and to correct issues that are forming here is a great exercise:
Stand with feet as close together as possible (ideally medial arches almost touching) If this is not possible due to feelings of instability place the feet in alignment with the hips or the shoulders and move them in as strength is gained. Now when you have found your balance in this pose (called mountain in yoga) lift all your toes off the ground. This will show you where that triangle of support is as you will be forced to stand only on it. Hold toes up for at least 30seconds. When you place your toes back down try to place them one at a time, focusing on creating space between the toes. If two toes are sticking together gently reach down and separate them. Rest in mountain pose to feel this new balanced place. Eventually try doing this exercise one foot at a time.