“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” – Leonardo da Vinci
“In all forms of strategy, it is necessary to maintain the combat stance in everyday life and to make your everyday stance your combat stance. You must research this well.” – Miyamoto Musashi
Is it enough to sneak in a daily workout and try to eat “clean”? No.
What we do in the gym has to carry over to what we do outside the gym. The biggest mistake I see people making is not learning to apply the bracing, setup, postural, and movement principles we practice ad nauseam in the gym to their everyday lives.
Allow me to give you one tip to practice outside of the gym: neutral feet.
Listen, your body was engineered to do some amazing things. What we often lack is the proper software to best express our hardware, so let me upgrade your software. To set the stage for efficient movement we need to put our feet in a neutral position. Neutral feet have cascading benefits upstream to the knees, hips, and spine and will reduce stresses that lead to overuse injuries of those joints.
Da Vinci knew a thing or two. The guy was one of the world’s best ever designers and knew a good design when he saw it. His infatuation with the foot led him to utilize arches in a lot of his design work. This is because arches can handle incredible compressive loads. If placed in a proper position, the feet will never be the limiting factor for compressive loading of the body – like holding a bar or yoke on your back. The foot has three (!) arches, and the only way to maintain all three arches is to stand with feet pointing straight forward.
Musashi also knew a thing or two. He details his philosophies for fighting and life in general in The Book of Five Rings. In the book he says that your everyday stance should be your combat stance. If our combat stance is neutral feet then we should aspire to be standing with our feet shoulder width apart under our hips pointed straight forward. This ensures proper poise and balance by providing a solid base from which to exert or absorb force – a combat stance. And this is how we need to train our bodies to stand while checking out in the grocery line. This is how we should stand when we are making small talk around the gym. This is how we should be standing always.
By fixing your duck feet (more common) or pigeon toed (less common) walking and standing, you help teach your body to default to a good position. Defaulting to a good position can be the catastrophic difference between a torn achilles or ACL or less appallingly bunions and island feet. This small change, aggregated over many years, will pay healthy dividends for the rest of your life.
So do your body a favor and check in with your standing posture over the next couple of weeks. It does in fact cost a lot of attention and effort to fix a poor habit you have developed over the past decade(s). But it will save you far more in joint health and power production – the important things in life!