Many of us already know that a strong core is important as it imparts stability to the rest of your body during a workout, but did you know that foot strength is also critical? And while we might think that runners, soccer players, or jumping athletes would benefit most from foot strength, it is important for athletes in all sports to have strong feet.
There are 29 muscles associated with the foot (wow!), with 10 of those controlling the foot and ankle together and the other 19 strictly controlling the foot and toes. The role of these amazing little muscles is to influence foot shape and posture, transmit muscle tension towards the ground and into the whole body system.
Think about it this way- if you’re standing, running, or jumping, you need to have a solid foundation!
Here are a few reasons how having a stable foot will improve performance and potentially reduce risk of injury:
1. Foot stability translates over to knee and hip stability. If the foot collapses we often see the knee follows, which then stresses the hip and sometimes the back as well. Working on strengthening the muscles of the foot, shin, and calf will help support your natural arch and impart more stability up the chain.
2. Our bodies rarely only move in one direction. The foot muscles don’t only help you move forward and backward, they help control rotation, side to side movement, and jumping and deceleration during landing. A stable base will improve your ability to control these side to side, up and down, and rotational movements (think cutting and jumping) so your hips and knees do less work to absorb those forces.
3. Shock absorption isn’t just for cars! You look for a car with a smooth ride, why wouldn’t you also want one for your legs? Professional runners are smooth and quiet on the ground because they know how to land in ways that absorb landing forces with less effort. Part of that comes directly from the foot and how it adapts during landing. A strong foot will assist in that role by contracting and relaxing during landing and push-off. Over many miles, these forces add up, and having poor shock absorption can lead to increased injury risk over time.
One way we often assist with foot support and prevent injury while you work towards your #footgains is to add in over-the-counter or custom orthotics. These provide assistance with stabilizing the arch of the foot and cushioning impact during landing, thereby decreasing the amount of work your muscles have to perform. This can also help with reducing any pain that may already exist in the foot and aid in healing so you can get back to training without modifications. Some people can use these supports temporarily to offload irritated tissues, and some may need consistent use in order to provide daily support; this is very individualized and varies depending on the situation.
We hope this helps and gives you more information on how feet are sometimes considered the “core” of the lower body.
As always, we hope this helps! For any questions and all suggestions, please email us at TeamSP@SportsPerformancePT.com
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