The fascial layers surrounding the bones of the foot can be likened to a ‘shrink wrap’ stocking, and it is this three-dimensional fascial envelope that ‘casts’ the foot in an everted or pronated position. Once these layers have adhered, releasing them will take a sustained focus and great patience.
The tendency at first is to simply ignore these outer fascial layers and try to elongate the muscles and tendons of the lower leg in order to ease rotation of the lower leg and extend the heel. But it quickly becomes clear that we cannot elongate these layers and ease rotation of the lower leg and calcaneus until these surrounding outer layers have been released.
We may then want to shift the position of the calcaneus by simply forcing it to retract. However, as a general rule, we should resist the urge to push anything into place. Pushing tissue into the calcaneus, or for that matter any bone, will be counterproductive. We’ll see better results from using two hands and focusing upon spreading tissue layers away from the calcaneus.
It can feel somewhat counterintuitive moving tissue layers adhered to the bottom of the foot / calcaneus forward, when trying to retract the heel. But to ease pronation of the foot, it will be necessary to spread layers of tissue that have adhered to the medial ankle and medial side of the foot apart and downward, from beneath the medial malleolus. To ease eversion, spread tissue layers adhered to the lateral side of the ankle and foot away from the lateral malleolus.
Again, working on tissue adhered to bony surfaces can feel counterintuitive if you have been used to trying to elongate tendons and muscles. But as a general rule, before a muscle or tendon is free to elongate, it must be free to move independently from its neighbors. And before a muscle layer is free to move independently, it will be necessary to release fascial adhesion surrounding it and adhesion of these layers from the bony surfaces that they attach to.
Essentially the foot needs to be free to move independently beneath the bones of the lower leg and to retract slightly when walking. Typically, when you attempt to push the dorsum of the foot back beneath the distal ends of the tibia and fibulae, you will feel the navicular locked forward, and unable to retract. Again, resist the urge to force the navicular to shift back by pushing into it as the foot is dorsiflexed. It will be more effective to patiently release tissue layers adhered to all the tarsals until they are all able to move freely when the foot is dorsiflexed.
To ease eversion and protraction and to create balance between the longitudinal arches of each foot, it will also be necessary to differentiate the metatarsals of each foot. Releasing adhesion between the metatarsals is not the same as releasing and elongating the plantar fascial layers on the bottom of each foot. The metatarsals are three-dimensional and freeing the adhered fascial layers surrounding them as your client moves their foot is what will help you to release them.
As SI practitioners, we are always thinking holistically and working in three-dimensional spaces! As SI practitioners, we are also always thinking strategically. Dr. Rolf’s recipe is quite clear that we are to support extension of the legs in Session One, and the stabilization and retraction of the heels in Session Two. These actions are necessary in order to ease thoracic rotation and normalize the secondary spinal curves in Session Three. A multi-dimensional reminder that we are guided by a strategic recipe!