Book Review: Understanding the Human Foot by James Earls

This is not specifically a Pilates book, but I find it a very insightful guide and reference.

I’m sure I don’t need to emphasis the importance of the feet in human movement and therefore in Pilates practice. I’m sure we all see the consequences every day of poorly adapted and poorly functioning feet in our clients – in knee pain, back pain, shoulder pain… not to mention actual foot pain. We all know how complicated it is and how hard to change. It can feel that you can never know enough about feet.

I’ve read this book through fully twice over the past couple of years (as well as dipping in regularly) and still feel somewhat under-prepared to summarise it for you. It is a really well written (friendly tone, non judgemental) and technically thorough without excessive or unnecessary jargon. You don’t feel like you’re just doing course on biomechanics – in fact he’s at pains to say that being able to name the bones, muscles and ligaments is not the thing – his phrase is “knowing, not naming”.
The book spends quite a few pages on evolution and the why of the foot, which I found helped to appreciate what is happening in motion. Then there is the how the foot moves, with load, with speed, what’s happening with ground forces and up the chain. There is a chapter on exercises, written by a UK Pilates teacher – they will be familiar to most of us, but useful if you are new the area. There are some very useful pointers on assessment. This is not just a book on what the foot is.

The clarity with which he captures the multidimensional function of the foot has helped me fine tune the different types of foot exercises I choose and to cue better longer chain exercises that are weight bearing on feet.

“Most functions of the foot can be split into four categories:
1. Shock absorption
2. Range of Motion
3. Forming an Aligned Rigid Lever
4. Propulsion and Force Output”


Meredith Brooks, PAA Treasurer

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