June 25, 2009
THE FOOT WHEEL – A Pilot Study
Brian M. Hickey, Ph.D.
The Florida State University, College of Education
The foot is the foundation of the human body. Only spanning approximately 12 inches, its key responsibilities include bearing the body’s entire weight and acting as both fulcrum and lever during the gait cycle. Consequently, a rich blood supply and a high degree of flexibility are essential for proper functioning of this vital component of the lower limb.
The muscles of the arches create the foot’s posture and are responsible in part for supporting the foot’s architecture, which is created by the bones. The plantar fascia is critical to the performance of the foot, as this tissue envelopes the bony, muscular and ligamentous structures, contributing to proper function and nutrition. In addition to meeting the nutritional needs, a rich blood supply to the foot insures that metabolic wastes will be swiftly removed and a constant flow of oxygen maintained.
Over time, foot performance may be compromised via reduced blood flow and decreased flexibility. In an attempt to counteract these forces, the Foot Wheel was developed. Comprised of three plastic disks separated by two plastic beads, the Foot Wheel’s ergogenic effects are felt when the user rolls it on the plantar surface of the foot. Optimal effects result when the user stands, holding an immovable object for support, and places the foot wheel between the plantar aspect of one foot and the ground while allowing the other leg to bear the majority of the body’s weight. As the wheel is rolled along the entire plantar surface of the foot, the user should experience a high pressure sensation at the point of contact. The duration of Foot Wheel treatment should last 60 to 90 seconds. Each foot should be treated at least twice per day.
Competitive athletes, or individuals involved in highly structured exercise programs, should use the foot wheel before each training session as part of their warm up and include it in their cool down routine. The Foot Wheel also provides benefit to individuals who spend a large portion of the day on their feet.
Recently an investigation was conducted that examined the perception of foot fatigue and soreness before and after Foot Wheel use. Participants in the study held jobs where at least 50% of the day was spent standing and/or walking. Twenty individuals whose occupations included hospital emergency room personnel, store clerks and teachers, were asked to rate how sore/tired their feet were on a scale of 1-5.
Before use of the Foot Wheel, the average fatigue perception was 4.2. Immediately following a 60 second use of the FootWheel, the rating dropped to 2.9. One hour later, average foot fatigue was still moderate (3.2).
These results demonstrate that the Foot Wheel is an effective tool in combating sore feet, which are frequently associated with periods of prolonged standing and activities that place a high demand on the foot.
When the foot becomes fatigued, efficiency of the musculature, with respect to providing for support and/or locomotion, becomes compromised. The muscles of the foot become tight, reducing blood flow and taxing the plantar fascia. Consequently delivery of nutrients and oxygen and removal of metabolic wastes is curtailed. This, in turn, accelerates fatigue. Furthermore, an environment ripe for the creation of trigger points is generated. These knots in the muscle tissue are the result of decreased oxygen and pooled metabolic wastes. Trigger points chronically shorten the muscle, thereby decreasing flexibility, hampering performance and increasing sensations of discomfort and fatigue. One of the main effects of treating the weary foot with the Foot Wheel is increasing blood flow during this time of need, thereby decreasing the likelihood of the aforementioned maladies. Also, as evidenced in the study, the perception of fatigue is decreased. Further investigation is warranted to examine the physiological effects of the Foot Wheel.
1. musculature becomes fatigued as a result of prolonged standing, walking or other activity and tightness develops
2. blood flow is reduced, accelerating fatigue and promoting trigger points
3. performance is compromised
4. massage based modality increases blood flow
5. removal of metabolic wastes and delivery of oxygen and nutrients is accelerated
6. foot performance is enhanced and potential for trigger points is reduced