Gary Ward – What The Foot
Hey, this is Jackie Tann and welcome to the body’s built better podcast. On the show, I chat with experts, athletes, coaches, and ordinary people doing extraordinary things. We explore the body’s incredible ability to heal, adapt, and evolve so you could crush limitations, reconnect your body in mind, and discover your extraordinary potential.
Today on the show, I chatted with anatomy and motions founder and author of what the foot Gary Ward, Gary is known for breaking the mould of anatomical thinking. And for his creation of the flow motion model. I discovered Gary’s work after seeing him get someone out of chronic pain and moving freely without pain within one session on the BBC documentary Dr. In the house with Dr. Chatterjee.
Now, of course, that meant I had to Google and research who the scary word was. And of course enrol in his courses, which I did and have been fantastic. Still got one to go. I’m looking forward to it. It was so fun chatting with Gary and for all you anatomy and movement nerds, you are going to love this episode. Garry breaks down the gait cycle and shares how something so far away from the foot could have a major impact on how you walk, which of course then creates other compensator II patterns. Is this good or bad, you’ll just have to listen to find out.
I also want to mention in the episode Gary talks about wedges, and it’s not the crispy potato guide, he actually talks about foam wedges. Now if you can imagine a doorstop. It’s like that, but kind of shorter and wider and made of foam. So that is what he’s talking about when he’s talking about wedges. So keep that in mind. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this fun episode with Gary ward. Gary, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. I’m very excited about chatting with you and the work that you do. Because you get people out of pain by looking at their feet, yet you’re not a podiatrist. But you teach people all over the world how to do what you do. So I’m very excited to talk about that.
But before we get into all of that, I’d love for you to give people a bit of background on you and how you came to working with feet.
How Gary Ward Started
Gary Ward 2:53
It’s a bit of a common joke among my regular listeners, because this is always a starter question. And so I think people generally skip the first 10 minutes talking about my introduction to feet by working in ski resorts and effectively learning to fit ski boots to fit the shape of a foot and then helping a foot to fit the shape of a ski boots.
So over a period of about three days, we were introduced to the foot from knowing nothing to holding this replica foot in our hand, and learning words like pronation and supination. And being completely fascinated by the whole thing. And building insoles to help a person fit inside a skipping.
So definitely not trained as a podiatrist, but then spent seven the next seven years building insoles for people’s feet to fit in ski boots. And what got me curious, really was that one of two things generally would happen. And that was that the people would have a subtle change in the way their feet rested in a ski boot. And they would report back that they didn’t have any back pain that day and they’d come back to me and say what did you do and I’ll be like, I don’t know. I adjusted the footbed essentially. And the other one was that people would come back and say that was the best day skiing I’ve ever had performance wise. And so the kind of analogy of going from pain to peak performance was what came out of those times.
And my curiosity as to how on earth this could possibly be taking place because you know, the foot is not the back type thing but a lot after a long road later you realise that actually the foot and the back are super connected and that the body has a beautiful way of self organising. So if you make an adjustment somewhere it will organise around it as best as it can. And that’s essentially an idea of compensation and adaptation.
So we have compensation as a negative word pegged rarely. But we want us in the classroom if you’d ever take the bill of body’s ability to compensate for the way and a lot of people said yes, because they did have that negative idea around the world. But of course, if you sprain an ankle, and you’re unable to compensate for your problems, and you’re going to just have further problems, so we’re very, very good at having a change in our body through injury, and then making it possible to carry on, we’re equally good at reversing that compensation and making a positive change in the body and reversing the compensations that we’ve made for that problem in order to be more optimal again, and so that, that kind of frames, the whole the whole viewpoint, the stance from above that we’re kind of looking at so, so yeah, it came from spending hours and hours and hours and hours of countless feet of all different shapes, sizes, and aromas. And, and, and it was a huge on the ground learning experience.
How To Fix Your Feet
When so, what are you looking at? When you saw a foot? Could you go? Or that definitely needs some support here or there or there’s definitely major compensation happening, like, could you tell straight away? Yes, I guess the most obvious is a Bunion, right? Or like a really flat note to
Gary Ward 6:27
think, like, Yes, all. Like, you get to a point where every foot, you start to look at like a lost puppy and want to take it because you know, none of them have degrees. They’re all mongrels. And they just need some love, care and attention, which is not as difficult as it may sound. I don’t know if I’m getting too old for this analogy with young people. But do people play Mario Kart these days? Do you remember Mario Kart? Nintendo? Again?
I remember it? Yes.
Gary Ward 6:59
There was a thing on mario kart, which was that your best performance around the track was, represented by a ghost version of you. And then you chased it to try and try and write Yeah, you beat it, right?
And so there’s this optimal version of your best race. And there’s an optimal version of your best foot. And it’s knowing that and then being able to look at that, and then overlay the one that’s in front of you and go, well, that shouldn’t be there that shouldn’t be there that shouldn’t be there.
How do we get it back to optimal? How do we chase that, that goes down and get it back to where it should be. And that’s, that’s very simply the game. So we call it what’s missing. And so you, you said Bunyan, if you look at a bunny, and you know that that shouldn’t be there. So if you look at an optimal version of that foot, that’s that standout? So what can we do to help that?
If a foot is pronounced, and leaning more to the inside, if you’ve got the foot and then the one that you’re presented with is leaning slightly to the side, you shouldn’t be there. So what are we going to do for that in the ski boot days, you would build an arch into that, to lift that back up again, back to the neutral position.
And in the Gary Ward anatomy of motion kind of way of thinking, you go, why is that there? Why are those bones sitting inside? What is the relationship with that position, forwards to the toes, but upwards into the rest of the body? What muscles are long, what muscles are short as a result of that, and what can we do to re educate the system to find itself.
And so even before we used to just gently started to uncover really cool things with with fee like one of the things that you used to do to see if somebody could find their neutral position was asking to lift their toes, or you will actually take their big toe and kind of crank it upwards because an arch should form.
And being able to lift that toe and see that the whole of the inside of the foot lifted up, let’s say lifted up by centimetre below. Wow, that’s like nowhere near where it should be, we better put some big arch into this. But the thing about that when you put it on you knew that if that person put their foot inside a good fitting ski boot, there would be pressure on the inside of that solid hard plastic boot and they were going to feel that all day long, will be uncomfortable.
And so that was one of the motivations for lifting that backup. But then you recognise, you know, put that shoe in a tray. No, they’re not going to feel it. But the impact of the lack of shock absorption through hitting it hard on the ground is then going to show up somewhere in the body.
So you still want to kind of help the foot to be able to do that. It just led to a really long long investigation into All the relationships into all the movement patterns. So for instance, that foot that’s fallen to the inside, the you’ll always find a rear foot is rotated internally be verted, they collapse to the inside, there’s a knock on effect to the tibia, which is a rotation towards the inside, which will create a flexion in the knee, a bigger internal rotation of the femur and push the pelvis away.
And it might even tilt the pelvis up on one side, and then all of a sudden you’re in the spine, the spine is rotated, the spines compressed on one side. And it doesn’t actually if you’re looking for it doesn’t take a genius to be able to say, that could be why you’re pinching in the right side of the low back.
So if you knew that, and your thought process was, as you’re a massage therapist, your thought process was I’ve got a sore right side of my low back, can you massage it today, you can massage it. And they come back next week, and they say I might still have a bit of a socket thing, you could massage it again. Yeah, of course, I’ll do that.
And then six months later, you’re still massaging the same bit. And it’s because every time they get up off the couch, and they walk on that one foot that rolls too much, they compress that continuously, all day long. And so to be able to change those patterns, influence those patterns in a way where movement is better through the foot, therefore better through the leg in that chain I just described, you start to take the pressure off of the area. So the question is always what the problem is, the problem where the pain is or is the problem somewhere else. And if we can track that somewhere else, then that’s where we would like to do the work.
How Gary Ward Understands Anatomy In Motion
Gary Ward 11:40
And because I qualified as a personal trainer and sports massage therapist as well. So that’s essentially my background. I’ve had a lifelong obsession with movement as well. So once I became acquainted with the foot, I couldn’t, I couldn’t let it go. And I couldn’t let the patterns and relationships go that I was seeing. And so it was a matter of then documenting.
And the gait cycle was quite popular, I would say at the time. I mean, people have been looking at gait walking for a long time. And for me, it seemed like a perfect platform to try and understand the relationships. And so it ended up being what I call the flow motion model, which is flow motions, there’s a play on words for slow motion. And flow is all about how effortlessly and efficiently will actually move through that cycle.
And obviously, things like flat feet will impede that flow. And then we have to find ways around the rocks in the river if you like. But the model itself is basically a description of every bone. And its journey through a single footstep, which takes naught point six and naught point eight seconds if you walk across a force plate.
And so to observe and describe the movement of every bone 26 in the foot in each foot, for instance, 206 in the body all moving in three dimensions to be able to document the journey of each joint and each bone through nought point six and 8.8 seconds is essentially what Wow, I spent, I spent my time doing…
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