Feet and Chiropractic

When most people consider seeing a chiropractor in Adelaide, they generally understand that chiropractic care is something to do with their spine.

This is largely true, however it may not tell the complete story.

One principle that we firmly respect in the chiropractic profession, is that the entire body works together as a complete functional system. The brain coordinates all of the functions that enable us to function correctly, but each part of the body contributes to the overall function in a very important way.

When we think about the human frame in a musculo skeletal sense, the spine is certainly a critical component in the overall functionality. However, the spine doesn’t just float around in thin air. It is secured onto the pelvic girdle, which transmits the weight of the upper body onto the hips. These in turn sit supported on the knees, then the ankles and finally the feet. You can consider the human skeleton to essentially be a multi storey building, with the feet as the foundation, then the ankles, the knees, the hips, pelvis, lower spine and upper spine being the other levels as we go up the body.

Early chiropractors such as Clarence Gonstead recognised this, and developed technique systems that viewed the body from the point of view of creating an overall structural integrity.

When we think about the feet and ankles, these have a very special role to play. Essentially, these structures have to translate the vertical weight of your body to be stable on a horizontal surface (the ground). They therefore have an intricate network of joint structures and soft tissue support structures that are designed to perform this task of distributing your complete body weight onto the ground and allowing you to walk, run, stand and jump in a stable way that doesn’t cause any damage.

As with everything though, there are times when this system can be subjected to injury, damage and dysfunction. Because the feet are the foundation, any deviation from their normal structure can give rise to compensatory movements and postures occurring in the joints that sit above them (ie knees, hips, pelvis and spine). This is exacerbated by the significant amount of sensory neurological input that comes from the feel and ankles. Have you ever rolled your ankle playing basketball or netball, or stepped on a piece of lego that your children have left lying in the hallway? If so, then you know how difficult it is to walk normally when your foot and ankle is not in a good way.

Some of you may be young enough to know of a children’s entertainment group called the Wiggles. Well Anthony Field (aka the blue wiggle) is the author of a book that describes his journey as a rock musician and then a children’s entertainer, and the toll these activities took on his health and function. It is a fascinating read if you have time.


One of the key topics Anthony discusses in the book is that a large collection of doctors both in Australia and overseas weren’t able to help him with his health problems. One day he ended up in the office of Chicago chiropractor Dr James Stoxen, who had developed a model of the body that he refers to as “the human spring” approach.


Dr Stoxen assessed Anthony from a whole body functional mechanical perspective, and was able to trace the cause of a lot of his physical problems to the way his feet were (or more correctly weren’t) functioning. By working together to re-establish correct foot and ankle biomechanics, Anthony turned a corner with his health and was able to recover a huge amount of pain free function over the next couple of years. If you see footage of him today, he looks fitter and healthier in his fifties than he ever did in his thirties. I won’t go into too much detail here, but he is a great example of how rebuilding the body from the ground up can give really powerful outcomes for people suffering from complex mechanical conditions and the pain and disability that flows from them.

If you are curious about the human spring model and how it may relate to you, read Anthony Field’s book or alternatively, speak to your Adelaide Chiropractor about your own specific situation.

A common question is which is the best footwear to buy for “support”. I tend to answer this in a round about way with my own patients. First of all, I prefer to stabilise the foot internally first (by correcting the joint and ligament and muscle relationships) before changing footwear too dramatically. Otherwise, the problem may persist. Secondly, internal correction has advantages in that a human should ideally also be able to walk barefoot without pain and dysfunction. Relying solely on shoes for support at all times doesn’t seem like a complete solution, and particularly for women. Thirdly, don’t fall into the trap of buying what the high profile athletes and rappers are endorsing. Expensive fashionable sneakers don’t necessarily cut the mustard when it comes to providing correct foot mechanics. Your Adelaide chiropractor or podiatrist can recommend which brands of shoes are the most suitable.

So, if you have any concerns about your feet or other joint structures that you haven’t necessarily considered to be related to your spine or any back problems that you may have, then contact your Adelaide chiropractor to see how they can help you.