Think back to your first Pilates session. You lie down on the reformer and your instructor places your toes on the footbar with your heels together and toes apart, instructing you to hold your heels tightly together as you move your carriage in and out. She then moves you to your arches and your heels. She watches intently as you hold your alignment and continuously coaches you to keep your feet in that position. You dutifully follow instructions, silently wondering if your instructor has a foot fetish.
Well, no she doesn’t but yes, there is a method to this foot obsession in Pilates!
Feet are the most used part of the body and often the most forgotten. They are the foundation of our bodies, getting us from place to place, distributing our weight, balancing and aligning us in ways we don’t consciously think about. They are this important and yet, think about the last time you went for your daily workout and actually focused on your feet! We’re guessing you’re probably coming up blank. Pilates is a workout for your whole body and that includes the feet. Things like high heeled shoes, tight shoes, pointe shoes, arthritis, flat feet, and high arches can wreak havoc on your feet. We want to keep them healthy. Feet are a gateway to your powerhouse. When they are aligned properly with the rest of your body, they connect you to your ankles, hips, spine, glutes, abdominals, and inner thighs. If they are misaligned they can create an unwanted chain reaction of problems and chronic pain in many parts of the body. So what do we do to make our feet happy and healthy?
Joe Pilates used several foot positions and often adjusted based on his clients needs. Here they are:
Pilates Stance aka Military Stance
Heels together toes apart with a fist width between the big toe knuckles. This position, which was not coined Pilates Stance by Joe Pilates, resembles a tripod. Connecting the heels while externally rotating the thighs gives you access to the muscles behind the legs as well as the adductors and abductors. When the heels are together we stay in our muscles and avoid hyperextending . This position can be found in footwork, frogs, hundreds, stomach massage, and leg springs.
Parallel Hip Socket Width
This is a wider stance in which the 2nd toe knuckle aligns with the middle of the heel. With equal weight through the foot, this position provides a wide base of support for balance and for certain knee issues. This position can be found in the elephant, short box, and neck pull.
Pilates Legs Together
A true parallel position with no light of day between the heels and big toe knuckles. This is the most challenging position because it is a very narrow base of support and emulates being on one leg. It also challenges the midline of the body. You can find this position in running, spine twist, and rowing 4.
During your next workout, be sure to pay attention to your forgotten feet! Focus on alignment and balance. Work your body all the way from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. Happy feet, feel complete.
See you on the mat!