Strong Feet, Balanced Body

What do you think about when you hear the word exercise?

Most people usually think about completing some form of cardio like running, biking, or stair master and lifting weights to build muscle.

What we fail to forget is a crucial part of the human anatomy that allows us to do these strength training and cardio focused exercises. This body part is not only crucial in exercise but also in our activities of daily living (ADL). What body part is this do you ask?

Our feet. 

Our feet provide a base of support that allows humans to stand up straight (hooray evolution!). They are specifically designed to bear our weight in full and allow locomotion. Our feet and ankle are made up of at least 26 bones, 33 ligaments, and more than a hundred muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Pretty complex stuff.

While browsing WebMD, I counted at least 20 different feet conditions ranging from plantar fasciitis to bunions. For such a complex structure at the foundation of our body’s movement, it is incredible how many people have foot pain and problems. Foot dysfunction then leads to dysfunction up the body’s chain of movement to our shin, knees, and hips. How many runners do you know with shin splints, ITBS, or hip pain? These imbalances stem from problems with the foot.

So what is the problem?

Experts and fanatics of barefoot running believe that our shoes are the problem. This may or may not be true. You have seen me wearing my recent purchase: Vibram 5-fingers. While I have yet to run in them, I am very happy with the increased lower-body muscle activation when wearing them during a lifting session. I can balance better and feel my feet getting stronger.

And right there is the missing the piece of the puzzle.

Strengthening our feet. 

When is the last time you did exercises specifically for your feet? If you were like me, probably not for a long time.

For several months now I have had serious pain in my left foot right around the arch. Over time I kind of forgot about it and learned how to live with the lingering pain. Then I was asked by my friend Mariana to help her with some intense achilles tendonitis and flat feet. She wanted to get active again after weeks of rest and get stronger from ski season. A lofty goal!

Mariana’s Goals:

  1. Regain flexibility in calves, quadriceps, lower body
  2. Develop strength in calves  (gastrocnemius and soleus), shins (tibialis anterior, extensor digitorum longus, extensor hallucis longus), and arch of foot (tibialis posterior)
  3. Maintain flexibility (hip, legs)
After doing more research, I was suddenly hit in the face with the realization… I have tendonitis!! Flat feet, over-pronation of my foot, tight calf muscles… all of this has culminated in Posterior Tibialis Tendonitis. Your tibialis posterior muscle runs from your knee down the inside of your leg, loops around your ankle bone and connects to the arch of your foot. A weak tibialis posterior causes the arch of your foot to collapse, straining the tendon connecting the muscle to the bone, and causing inflammation.
Since that realization, I have started to strengthen my feet using the exercises I prescribed to Mariana. I suggest adding these exercises to your normal strength training program to prevent any foot problems from happening in the future. Because happy feet is a happy body.

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Add to your normal strength training program. Good luck!

For some great compound moves to add to your repertoire for a full-body burn, I direct you to Tuesday Trainer. These ladies did a great job this week!

3 thoughts on “Strong Feet, Balanced Body

  1. It makes me happy you dedicated a post to feet & included exercises for preventing injury. Your friend is lucky to have you. I’m so proud of you! 😉
    Another thing to keep in mind that bothers me: keeping toddlers in shoes all the time. Take their shoes off when they are indoors & let their little feet develop. No wonder so many people develop problems & just think “this is how my feet are”.

    1. Prevention is so important! That’s why I loved your post on preventing ITBS. I do your hip abduction exercises several times a week. And I never thought about that before but you are on point about kids wearing shoes. Let them run around barefoot and get dirty and stub their toes. These feet were made for walking… 😉

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