Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians

I Turn Out My Feet-So Now What?

If I don't think about how I stand, this is what happens.  My right leg is basically pointing forward and my left leg/foot turns out.  You can also see that one's toes don't necessarily point forward-they may deviate to the side, so "toes point forward" is not the most accurate of cues.

If I don't think about how I stand, this is what happens.  My right leg is basically pointing forward and my left leg/foot turns out.  You can also see that one's toes don't necessarily point forward-they may deviate to the side, so "toes point forward" is not the most accurate of cues.

1.  Take a look at your feet.  It can be helpful to compare this with a wall, line, etc.  First, are your knees pointing in the same direction as your feet?  Where are your toes in relation to everything else?

2.  Place a book or block between your feet to start to test it out.  This is not your true parallel, because you're bringing the whole inner line of the feet together. (I visualize feet as more triangular than rectangular, so if you bring your heels together, your toes turn out slightly).

Getting better-now my "toes point forward", but if I look at my knees and hips, they're turning out slightly.

Getting better-now my "toes point forward", but if I look at my knees and hips, they're turning out slightly.




3.  Now try to bring your outer edges of your feet to parallel, using the book as a spacer.  What that will do is demand that your heels will separate slightly, and the inner edges of your feet will touch the book.  That is your truest approximation of feet point forward.  If the book/block concept doesn't fit your bones (you might be smaller or larger than me), than try a different size book.  (A yoga block is about the size of a Harry Potter Book.)  In addition, try these different spacing activities and see how it feels not only in the foot and knee, but in the hip and spine.

Here, my heels separate slightly from the book, the front and insides of my feet contact the book, and the outsides of my feet are pretty close to parallel.  This is my optimal stance.  (I also could use a pedicure.)  Can you see how my left big toe deviates slightly to the left?

Here, my heels separate slightly from the book, the front and insides of my feet contact the book, and the outsides of my feet are pretty close to parallel.  This is my optimal stance.  (I also could use a pedicure.)  Can you see how my left big toe deviates slightly to the left?

Why am I slightly obsessed with this principle?  Because changing the way I stand and walk has decreased any pain or discomfort in my feet, knees, and hips considerably, and I do believe that the way we teach our students to stand will affect their long term movement patterns.  Feet/knees straight is simply a good foundation towards achieving neutral pelvis, neither internal nor external rotation in the thighs.  There are good reasons that one may not be able to do this, and you would probably already know this based on your medical experience (PT, pediatric diagnosis of bow leggedness, tibial torsion, hip retroversion, etc.), and later this week, I'll detail some of the movement patterns that would prevent someone from doing this easily.  For the public at large, neutral rotation of the thighs is a soft tissue issue, and a habit, rather than a structural restriction.  What that means is that the muscles of external rotation (in the hips and thighs) may be stronger or tighter than the muscles of internal rotation, and that the body is not used to standing in a neutral position.  

In addition, music making is an incredibly complex and intellectual process, and naturally, we might be focused on what's going on with our instruments, baton, etc, rather than our feet and legs.  Having a solid foundation in the lower body has been incredibly helpful for me in stressful performance situations, and also gives me a sense of stability in confidence in other movement disciplines.  When we can make music from an awareness of the whole body, it creates an embodied performance that is palpable and powerful.  Just as Andrea wrote in her most recent post, this is also process of exploring your own movement patterns, and just becoming aware of your habits and tendencies is incredibly valuable feedback.