How Strong are Your Feet?
The feet are often one of the most neglected parts of our body. We love to stretch, strengthen, and foam roll all of the larger muscles we use in our daily routines, so why not the feet? The feet are the first point of contact that we have when we run and walk. They help control the motion at the ankles which affects everything up the chain. Having strong feet is critical for preventing injuries such as plantar fasciitis. In this article we will focus on why it's important to take care of your feet and introduce some quick exercises to build into your training routine.
Strength & Endurance
The muscles that are often forgotten about are the intrinsic foot muscles or the muscles that stay within the foot. These muscles help control the arch of the foot which affects how the foot moves in space. Runners are always using these muscles to make sure that the foot is solid as it comes in contact with the ground. This allows us to spring off while running with relative ease. As these muscles are weak or lack endurance the arch starts to collapse and performance decreases. A great way to build endurance and strength specific to these muscles is doing an exercise called toe yoga. Try starting out seated and eventually progress to different variations standing. Toe Yoga
Equally as important is the mobility of the foot. The foot needs to be able to move efficiently in order to stay healthy. Since we are constantly using our feet to train they will get tight over time. Just like any muscle that is tight it can cause pain and compensations with various movements. The thick layer of fascia that surrounds our intrinsic foot muscles is often one of the culprits that gets tight and painful. One way to combat this is to focus on improving the mobility of these tissues by using a lacrosse ball to the bottom surface of the foot. Try this exercise for 30-60 seconds to target these tissues either before or after exercise to improve foot mobility. Foot Foam Roll
No Socks, No Shoes, No Problem
The barefoot running craze popularized by the book “Born to Run” has come through many running circles. Whatever your opinion of the book may be it did have at least one good point. As we have progressed to bigger bulkier shoes we often use our foot intrinsic muscles less and less. Similar to an arm stuck in a cast for months, the feet stuck in a bulky shoe will not be worked. The feet need stimulation in order for the muscles to stay active and strong. Barefoot walking forces the intrinsic foot muscles to be activated and stimulates new connections within the feet. Now don’t go walking around the office without shoes on to improve your foot strength, most of your co-workers probably won’t enjoy the smell. It is a good idea to start with some barefoot walking outside on soft surfaces such as sand or grass. Start out with a few minutes and build your time up.
In summary, taking care of your feet is one of the best ways to improve your running and keep your feet injury free. Add these few ideas to your daily mobility and strength exercises and see what new benefits you can gain before next beach season. Strong feet are sexy feet except when your toenails are falling off.