You Need to Know This
Foot strength. Let’s talk about it! In this post, I discuss why foot strength is critically important, the best ways to develop it, and whether bare feet have a place in warm ups and warm downs. Intrigued? Read on.
Your feet are incredible. Here’s why.
During sport, your body can encounter forces of up to 30 times your body weight through the feet. That feet can withstand this force and direct it appropriately through the body is a marvel of bio-engineering! With ropes, pulleys and stabilisers all working around complex articulations, it’s surprising how much goes on down there – yet how little attention feet receive, being typically the least trained part of the body (unless, of course, they’re injured or in pain).
Foot anatomy: the basics.
There are 20 intrinsic muscles in each foot, originating from one part of the foot and inserting into another. In addition, another 20 extrinsic muscles act on each foot, originating from higher up the leg and inserting into the foot.
It’s a complex arrangement, but essential for good mechanics and performance.
When your feet are weak, problems occur.
Weakness or dysfunction leads to poor joint alignment, which magnifies the effort required to perform simple tasks.
This makes you far less efficient when trying to perform at the highest level, which is a handicap no athlete wants or needs.
Strengthening the foot muscles is key to enabling your body to find control, stability and limit preventable injuries. By increasing foot strength, you’ll avoid being hampered by wonky mechanics, and maximise your performance.
But before strengthening the feet, it’s important to focus on mobility.
Your joints should be working in harmony, with no restrictions or adhesions. That’s why a podiatrist who provides foot mobilisation therapy is a great addition to your therapy team.
Next, condition your muscles.
Ensure your muscles are primed to improve by keeping them in good condition, with massage and stretching. As a basic measure, your warm-up regime should always incorporate lower leg and foot flexibility sets. (Want to know which stretches to include? Ask your podiatrist!)
Congratulations! You’re ready to strengthen.
Although strengthening exercises prescribed for you are best discussed one-on-one with your sports podiatrist, here are three essential strengthening exercises every active person should be doing to keep feet performing at their best.
- Take a walk in bare feet on soft sand
- Even imagining this feels good, right? The extra effort required by walking through soft sand is fantastic for those forgotten little intrinsic muscles. If you don’t have access to soft sand, going bare foot on the grass is the next best thing as you warm up or cool down.
- Use your feet to pick things up
- Not just a neat party trick! While seated, practice picking a towel up off the ground with your toes. Make sure to spread your toes, grab the towel, and curl them to pick it up. It’s harder than you might think! Channel your inner primate.
- Rise onto your toes and lower slowly
- Make sure you’re in a neutral foot position (where the foot is neither rolled in or out). Feel the strength on the inside of your arch as you rise, and lower. Repeat.
The final word on foot strength
These tips may sound simple, but improving foot strength offers huge benefits.
Even though they’re way down there, don’t forget about your feet. They’re your springboard! Help them become supple, flexible and strong, and bound towards better performance today.
Did you know that every time you take a step you have the force of you and 4 other people on your shoulders pushing through your body?
What’s more, it has been shown that during sport up to 30 times your body weight can go through your feet!
It’s no wonder people get sore feet, and sports people can suffer with injuries.
That said, with 3 simple steps anyone can achieve drastic improvements for feet that are falling apart.
Condition Your Joints
The main reason your feet can withstand such huge forces is because your joints are able to pronate – rolling in and acting like a flexible loose bag of bones which is good for absorbing shock and adapting to the terrain; or supinate – acting like a rigid lever on which to propel yourself from one step to the next.
In sport we pound our feet into the ground, we make sudden changes of direction, and we accelerate and decelerate at great speeds which places a lot of load through the bones of the feet.
Simply writing the ABC’s in the air moving only your feet and ankles can help to improve the range of motion in your joints, and allow them to better handle the forces that go through them.
Try it now… see if you can make it all the way through to Z!
Condition Your Muscles
Muscles engage in the final 3% of joint range of movement to protect the joints. Muscles are great protectors, and they engage to protect the joint whenever it is placed in a compromised position.
Muscles are connected to bones by tendons, which allow them to gain leverage by working around corners. Problems with tendons often occur when there is abnormal sheering force as they run close to the bones.
Rolling your feet over a broomstick, tennis ball, or length of PVC pipe can relieve tired, aching muscles and bring your feet back to life.
Know When To Seek Help
A mentor of mine told me once,
“Refine the things you do wrong and do them a little less wrong each day”
If you want to identify the true cause of your pain and find a solution for foot pain or injury, it may be time to ask someone who knows more for help.
The biggest challenge for most of us is finding someone who can work with us to achieve our goals. The good news is there is help available, and people who are highly trained to work with you.
Improving the ability for your feet to function without falling apart can be a powerful tool to help you enjoy life, walk strong, stand tall, and get an edge over the competition.
I hope this helps you find your fit feet again.
I hope you enjoyed reading this, it’s just another way we like to spread the word about what we do, and demonstrate that our clients come first.
Like it? Please Share it!
Hitting the Streets
It is the time of year when hordes of people are dusting off the winter cobwebs and hitting the streets to prepare for spring time fun runs.
So, with research telling us that up to 79% of runners will suffer an injury, some may be forced to question whether all the hard work is worth it.
There comes a point when training for a big event where the training loads can become too much for your body, and it’s at that point where injuries can be more prevalent. Some runners are frustrated because they are unable to do the training loads required before a big event – and with the Yurrebilla trail 56km Ultra event approaching that can equate to a lot of kilometres!
If you were at the Adelaide marathon you may have even noticed the Ambulances dotted along the route attending to people in various states of disrepair. Here at the clinic we are seeing an increasing number of people who have little injuries that turn into bigger injuries simply because of inadequate preparation to be able to handle the training load and force they are placing on their bodies.
Have you ever found yourself at a mental cross-road? On one hand you think, “Do I just give up on the training and turn up on the day for the event? And the other, “Do I keep training and risk not being able to do the event at all?”
You might be like Sally…
…(not her real name), who has been doing great work with her long distance training regularly running 20+km with no issues. When she was asked to join her office Corporate Cup team she did so thinking that a 4km run would be easy in comparison. So easy, in fact, that she could run it a lot faster than usual, and the next week beat her own time by nearly 2 minutes!
While thrilled with the Corporate Cup results, she started getting niggling pain with her long distance training, and perhaps not sticking to her running plan may have been too much for her body to handle.
The Good News
For Sally, our assessment revealed that while her body was fit for long distance, it was becoming less able to cope with changes in activities or running habits, leaving her exposed to injuries when running shorter, faster distances. However, like Sally, there are some simple things everyone can do to increase capacity before a big event.
Handy Training Tips
Try these tips to improve your body’s ability to handle changes in activity and increases in training load:
- If you have a niggling pain that annoys you on a typical road training run, try breaking up your training sessions with a trail run or grass run (and vice versa).
- Instead of trying to run a long distance in one go, try doing it in 3 runs – you will still get the mileage, and protect your body
- Running drills under the supervision of your podiatrist can help to retrain your body to work more efficiently
- Make sure you have the right shoes well before the event – use a pair of “faithfuls”, but not a pair that’s “Dead”
These easy exercises can help improve your overall capacity:
- Rolling your feet over a tennis ball
- Foam rolling your legs
- Massage and Epsom salt recovery baths for muscle tension
And of course, if you have any concerns that are out of the ordinary, please speak to your podiatrist. Looking after your body through the training period means it will hopefully reward you at the finish line!
Children’s feet are constantly changing. The shoes they wear need to be durable, supportive and well fitted while also allowing for growth. It’s the time of year when we start thinking about school shoes and preparing the kids to go back to school. Here are some common back to school mistakes we see, and how you can avoid them.
Mistake#1: Don’t buy shoes to last the whole year
- Not only are school shoes worn almost every day, they are also stomped on, scuffed, splashed and buried in the sand pit. As the shoes get worn out it is important to replace them immediately.
Mistake #2: Leaving Your Child at Home
- Would you let someone else go out and buy shoes for you? How would you know if they fit well and are comfortable?
- It is simply not enough to go out at pick the next size shoe for our child. You must bring them with you to the shoe store to take advantage of fitting services and ensuring they will have happy feet.
- Ask if the sales assistant is trained shoe-fitter, as shoes that are not correctly fitted for width and length can damage your child’s feet.
- There are a number of reputable shoe stores that can take care of your child’s feet and assist you in finding the right shoes for your child
Mistake #3: Buying shoes for school that are not school shoes
- Sneakers can be good for a particular purpose, but not for everyday wear. Ballet flats might be ok for casual wear, but not for the daily rigours that face the playground. I would recommend avoiding shoes with a high heel.
Some things to look out for:
- The length should be a thumbs width longer than the longest toe
- The heel should have a wide base and be made from a shock absorbing material
- The shoes should fit snugly around the heel with no allowance for the heel to slip in and out
- Leather and natural fibres can be better for your child’s feet
- Check the inside for seams and stitching that might irritate
- Make sure the shoes are not too heavy or rigid for small feet
- Avoid sling back or open back shoes – Velcro, laces or buckles will be more secure on your child’s feet
Also, remember that blisters may develop with new shoes. Children’s feet are naturally sweaty, and the inside of their shoes are potential sources of infection so make sure any blisters or abrasions are dressed with antiseptic and a bandaid.
Be mindful as well that older children may be embarrassed and hide foot problems from you, so don’t be afraid to check for sure.
So, that’s it! I hope these simple Back to School Shoe Tips are helpful for you to find the right shoes for your child. And, of course, we would be more than happy to help if you have any further questions.
People of all ages and walks of life are trying out yoga. From Bikram Hot Yoga styles to the more traditional Hatha yoga, the yoga world is inviting you to summon your inner Yogi or Yogini!
Have you thought of giving it a go? Many people are embarrassed because they are either not flexible enough, they have poor balance, or they worry someone might see their feet.
Remember your first class… Did you feel pain and tension in your calf muscles, shins, arches, big toe joints or ankles while you were inverting yourself in downward dog, summoning your inner warrior, or twisting yourself in knots in eagle pose?
Your feet are the foundation for your posture. This means better feet can mean better balance, strength and posture in your asana poses.
Your body recognises weak or unstable feet, and compensates to prevent injury. This compensation can make it very difficult to use your strength effectively, and can leave you feeling weak and unstable.
Consider a house built on an unstable foundation. It will develop cracks and creaks as it shifts to find the most stable resting position to prevent it from completely collapsing.
A podiatry assessment might be just what you need to find weaknesses before they become a problem.
Podiatrists can assess your foot stability, and improve the function of your foot joints and leg muscles using a range of manual techniques including massage, dry needling, and foot mobilisation techniques.
The result? Better grounding and balance for your yoga poses, better strength through your body, and you get more out of your yoga.
Podiatrists can also show you what you need to do to help yourself. Simple exercises such as stretching, strengthening and self massage can get your feet prepared for the mat, and improve your balance on the mat.
Oh, and for those worried about the appearance of your feet, podiatrists can help by painlessly removing unsightly corns, callus, fungal or thickened toenails, and cracked heels.
So, I ask you please. Consider your feet! Healthy feet will allow you to discover the transformative power of yoga. Yoga helps you move with more freedom, ease your back pain, sleep better, improve vitality and find energy you never knew you had.
You will be back-bending, toe-touching and sun saluting in no time.
Bailey Keatley is a podiatrist at Posture Podiatry in Adelaide, and a Yoga practitioner and instructor.
One thing we love to do as podiatrists is to look at the wear pattern on the base of your shoes.
A common problem we see is wearing down of the outside of the heel. Contrary to what people may think, this is not a sign that your feet are rolling in or out, but it is actually more to do with your hip position as your foot swings through from one step to the next.
Another common problem is a circular wear pattern on one or both of your shoes under the forefoot. This is telling us that as you push off from one step to the next you may be twisting your foot slightly in order to clear the ground.
Take a look at the shoes you are wearing right now and see what areas are wearing down.
By looking at your shoes, podiatrists can detect problems with hamstrings, Achilles tendons, big toes, knees, hips, back pain and even headaches.
Your shoes don’t lie!
The wear pattern on the base of your shoes can give podiatrists valuable clues as to how your posture is affecting your walking, and where there may be a loss of efficiency.
Try this out
A good thing to do at home is to line up three pairs of shoes, turn them over and study the wear pattern of the base of your shoes to see if there are any inconsistencies.
Do you notice that the wear pattern is the same from one shoe to the next, or does it change?
And of the shoes you have chosen, is the wear pattern different on the ones that are least comfortable?
Do you notice that one shoe looks different to the other shoe? Even minor differences can be an indication of asymmetry, which could be contributing to pain or injury.
If you do notice any of these, it may be worth investigating further. You may have just discovered the map that could lead you to the source of your pain.
The podiatrists at Posture Podiatry are trained to interpret the wear pattern on your shoes to find the best outcome for you.
My mother is a physiotherapist, and she has always told me, “Invest in what you sit in and sleep on”.
We spend a lot of our time sleeping; we also spend a lot of our time sitting. However I am going to take it one step further (no pun intended)…
We also spend a lot of time walking.
That’s right. Did you know that in your lifetime you will walk on average the distance equivalent to 4 times around Earth?
While my mother’s sage advice still rings true, when I now pass on the same advice I add, “Invest in what you sit in, sleep on, and walk in.”
There is no avoiding it. You actually do get what you pay for in a shoe. And with the amount of force that goes through your feet, it is good to wear shoes that help your body move efficiently.
How do I know what shoe is right for me?
Not all feet are equal. There are some shoes that are suitable for some people, and not suitable for others.
However, with an entire shoe industry dedicated to providing us with unlimited choice, how can we choose a shoe that is appropriate for us?
Remember the “4 S’s” when it comes to choosing the right shoe for you:
- Size – Ensure there is a thumb-width space at the end of your shoe so your toes don’t get cramped. Try them on at the end of the day when your feet are more swollen.
- Support – Check your shoes to make sure they are rigid in the middle, flexible at the toes, and have a firm heel counter for support.
- Secure – Loosely fitting shoes cause aching and tiredness. Choose shoes that are secure on your feet with laces or a buckle so you will be able enjoy your day for longer.
- Soft – With the force of 4 times your body weight going through your feet with walking, it is good to have some cushioning in your shoes.
At Posture Podiatry, we realise that fashionable footwear is also important, so we have worked out ways to help you cope with those shoes that would otherwise need to be peeled off your feet at the end of a long night.
If you would like us to help you find the right shoe for you, recommend good shoe stores, or even assess your shoe collection (we have had people bring suitcases full of shoes to their appointments!), come on in and have a talk with one the podiatrists at Posture Podiatry.
We can help you find the right shoes for you.
And remember to think carefully about what you sit in, sleep on and walk in!
Running styles vary according to distance, terrain and body type. Here are some helpful tips on how to maximise your ability to run strong and efficiently.
- Stand upright with a gentle lean forward
- Look straight ahead (unless you are on uneven terrain)
- Avoid twisting your body
- Run Quietly
- Visualise yourself as a ninja sneaking up on someone
- Your feet should touch the ground directly beneath you, not out in front of you
- You should avoid slapping ground with your feet, or pounding with your heels
- Kick the Dust Behind You
- It is much better to kick behind you than reach out in front of you to lengthen your stride
- Don’t over-stride – this can cause Shin Splints, Achilles problems, ITB pain and hip flexor pain
- Speed up those steps (Cadence)
- Think 3 steps per second (180 beats per minute)
- Run in time with fast tempo music
- Keep the same tempo whether you are running slow or fast
Make sure you have the correct shoes for your running style
The Podiatrists at Posture Podiatry can help you by assessing your running style, recommending the correct footwear and giving you helpful running drills to get the most out of your run.
Knee pain has the potential to stop you in your tracks.
But what has Mexico got to do with it?
Someone once told me they thought of the knee as Mexico… below the knee is the foot and lower leg – or South America, and above the knee there is the hip and pelvis – North America!
Often we blame the knee for the problem, but it’s likely to be something from either below the knee or above the knee that could be the cause.
So, when you think of your knee pain, consider the following 3 things:
- Are my feet in good alignment below the knee?
This is a good way to tell if your knees are having abnormal stress on them because of the position of your feet. Feet that roll in (pronate) will cause your knee to rotate inwards, feet that roll out (supinate) will make your knee rotate outwards causing stress.
- Does my knee tend to track in or out?
You can test this the next time you sit in a chair. Watch your knees as you sit down, and again as you rise, do they move in or out? Or do they stay in good alignment as they bend?
- Do I also have problems with hip pain and back pain? Or pain along the outside of my thigh?
Hip and back pain coupled with knee pain can be a warning sign that your knee pain is not just a problem with the knee. You may need to look higher to find the true cause of your knee pain.
The podiatrists at Posture Podiatry care about your knees, and can help you find the true cause of your knee pain, and treat it for you.
Contact us today if you have knee pain!