Ironically one of the most important parts of the body is also one of the most untrained ; The Feet. People run, walk and stand on them all day yet rarely are they properly trained to function correctly to support posture and basic human movement. Most shoes (including “athletic” shoes) restrict movement binding up the toes and the feet in static immobile position for hours on end. In result your feet get tight, weak and unable to move and support as they are meant to be. This isn’t an isolated problem either. If the foot isn’t properly functioning, errors through the kinetic chain slowly work their way up the body. Knee, hip, low back and shoulder problems start to creep in as these parts of the body try to pick up the slack from inadequate foot strength.
So what is foot strength? Foot strength is the ability to place majority of your weight on the ball of the foot and big toe. Standing, walking and running should use the ball of the foot and big toe as their main power house to support and mobilize body. When competent foot strength is present it sets a foundation for proper posture and graceful and flowing motions. Foot strength ensures a powerful push off the ground as well as a quiet and soft landing (soft landing = healthy joints). Look at dancers and competitive sprinters. They look like they are floating and they land with very little noise even when running and jumping. This is a direct result of skill in their sport/activity and of course… foot strength.
Testing foot strength is a very straight forward and accessible process. Take of your shoes and socks. Place your finger under your big toe. Now press down as hard as you can on your finger.
How strong are your feet?
0 = You cannot put any pressure on the finger
1 = You can feel some pressure but not much
2 = You can feel a good amount of pressure
3 = If you left your finger there for 30 seconds it would get uncomfortable
4 = It actually hurts your finger
5 = You cannot pull your finger out if you life depended on it
If you scored a 2 or below its time to get to work on those feet. If you scored a 3 or higher keep reading. You can never be too strong and there is always room for improvement.
So where do you start?
Starting a foot strengthening regime isn’t a complex or involved process. Unless you have some very specific feet related issues or injuries flexible shoes are a must. Just being able to move your foot freely throughout the day can do tremendous amounts of good. Just like being hunched over all day hurts your back, having your foot bound up in a stiff shoe does the same. Wear them for short amounts of time at first, and as you feel comfortable wear them as much as possible (if your profession or lifestyle permits).
Once you are comfortable wearing flexible shoes start getting active in them. Jumping rope, lifting weights, and short bouts of running can be very beneficial. Be very gradual in this approach. For my clientele I only allow them to run a distance they can perform with fast, flowing and pain free motion. If there is any pain or discomfort during or after activity either modify your volume or switch back to your standard shoe. Remember your feet have been dormant for decades if not more. Start with small and train smart.
Taking things to the next level is always an option. Sports Science Lab group classes are an excellent way to develop foot strength. With unique equipment like balance disks, balance pipes, and slant boards you will learn to train your feet from every angle. The drills and exercises will awaken the muscles in your feet and your athletic potential. Any level and any age is welcome. 7 years old or 76 it doesn’t matter. It is never too early or too late to get better.