| Article written on April 13th, 2015 at 11:30am | Follow Garrett on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram |
When we think about proper lower extremity function, many people look at the ankle, hip, and lower back, but fail to recognize the importance of proper foot function. Here are 4 thoughts to help you look at and improve function of the feet:
1. The great toe is important, hence why we call it the “Great” toe (I just made that up, sorry). The great toe should have adequate range of motion regardless of your activity because of it’s importance during propulsion in walking and running. Imagine if the last part of the body to push-off the ground was limited, how would that affect your gait cycle? You bet we would need to compensate in some way to make up for this. The required amount of range of motion is 70-80 degrees of metatarsophalangeal (MTP joint) extension. This is often more motion then most people have, so we need to put in some time to address the great toe and it’s musculature. Here’s how:
2. A typical dynamic flexibility exercise is leg swings across the body (start video below at 14 seconds). This helps mobilize the hip in the frontal plane and target the adductors and abductors. Pretty important from that end, but even more so is what’s going on down at the foot. I typically use this drill to mobilize the metatarsals. The metatarsals are the long bones in the foot that need to be able to glide to some degree. We don’t usually consider the motion between these bones, but it is important in proper foot mechanics, shock absorption, and function. As we swing the leg across and away from the body, we cause the foot to roll from a pronated to a supinated position. This loosens, the sometimes too rigid, ligamentous attachment binding the metatarsals together.
3. Doing self-myofascial release or getting soft-tissue work on your feet is essential. Typically we will foam roll the quads, iliotibial band, calfs, and thoracic spine, but fail to pay attention to the plantar surface of the feet. The calf does have an impact on the foot with it’s fascial connection in the superficial back line (SBL), but there are so many small intrinsic muscles and the plantar fascia that deserve attention. Using a lacrosse or golf ball are two very good ways to work on this area. Simply roll the bottom of the foot slowly across the ball and look for any tender or tight areas. Once you find a spot, you can hold the ball on it and add toe movements to release the tissue. Try incorporating this before you next workout or run.
4. Have you ever been fitted into the proper kind of footwear? Know what happens when we wear improper footwear, pretty much all of the areas mentioned above get jacked up. This is so common today with high heels, dress shoes, and poorly fitted sneakers. Let’s not even go into sandals! Everyone’s foot structure is different and that is why we can’t all wear the same type of footwear. Many running stores do a great job of fitting their customers with which type of sneaker is compatible with their foot. Often, the people who develop foot and lower leg issues, especially distance athletes, do so because they are altering their biomechanics with a sneaker that isn’t right for them. Take the time and spend a few extra bucks to be fitted into the correct shoe.
There’s my few random thoughts on the foot. Start paying more attention to the foot and see if you can uncover any issues before they become problematic. Don’t be afraid to show your feet some love!
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART