Friday, July 6, 2012

Start with a strong foundation

Success begins with a strong foundation.  This is true in business, in relationships and in health and fitness.  Your feet are your foundation for a strong, aligned, and integrous physique.  With close to 30 bones and more than 30 joints in each foot, the feet contain a quarter of all the bones in the human body!  Surprisingly, many fitness enthusiasts take their foundation for granted and wind up paying a large price in the long run with multiple injuries higher up the kinetic chain.

Lets take a look at the purpose and structure of this often neglected but oh so important body part:

  • Your feet have the dual purpose of weight bearing & propulsion
  • In addition to the multiple bones of the foot, an amazing network of connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, fascia) allow for that “spring in your step” with the construction the foot arches
  • The arches of your feet are critical to shock absorption & transmission of force during walking and running
  • Our bodies are connected from toe to head, without interruption, through the deep fascia. 
  • Misalignment in one part of the body creates a domino effect along the entire kinetic chain.

A closer look at the arches of the feet and the muscles that support these arches can help shed some light on proper “foot posture”.

The multiple bones in our feet allow for flexibility to adjust to variable walking surfaces:

credit:  www. (Dr. Ray Long & Chris McIvor)

credit:  www. (Dr. Ray Long & Chris McIvor)

In addition to the medial and lateral arches, some describe a transverse (or metatarsal) arch.  Although the literal presence of this third arch continues to be debated in the literature, it’s theoretical presence can be helpful in learning how to truly ground through the foundation of your feet and find proper weight distribution and foot alignment.

The muscles of your feet include the intrinsic muscles within the foot and in-between the toes that flex and extend your toes.  In addition, the extrinsic muscles of the lower leg, whose tendons attach distally in the foot, allow for range of motion at the ankle joint as well as support for the medial and lateral arches.

credit:  www. (Dr. Ray Long & Chris McIvor)

Intrinsic muscles:  Hallucis longus and brevis (big toe flexors)

credit:  www. (Dr. Ray Long & Chris McIvor)

Extrinsic muscles:  Tibialis posterior, peoneus longus and brevis

Here are a couple of quick exercises to help you find the muscles of your feet and lower legs and begin your path to a stronger more stable foundation:

  1. Find your arches:  in a standing or seated position align your feet in a parallel position.  Visualize the arches of the foot as you ground down through the ball of the foot (big toe & pinky toe side) and the outer edges of your heel.  Stay grounded and begin to lift up through the center of your foot (a suction cup-like action).  Make sure your toes do not scrunch up as you do this.
  2. Ankle range of motion:  Your ankle joint can move in four distinct ways.  You can add resistance (using your hand pressing on the foot or a theraband) to take these exercises to the next level, strengthening and stretching all the muscles of your lower leg:

                        Eversion / Inversion:

                        Dorsiflexion / Plantarflexion:

Once you’ve learned how to access the muscles of your feet and lower leg you can take this knowledge with you into any activity you choose creating a stronger foundation and resulting in a safer and more effective workout.

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