Today I want to talk about your feet and ankles.
Before I do though i need to draw your attention to Mondays post where I mentioned the 1 Mile Walking Swing challenge for RehabCare.
I have just set up a fundraising page over on mycharity.ie and would appreciate it if you could show some support.
But back to your feet.
Just this morning after the bootcamp I had one of my lads come up to me and ask about running technique as he’s feeling ankle pain. I looked at him and saw a pair of pronating feet.
Last week one of my other lads was telling me how his knees were sore from a run he did the day before. I looked down and saw a pair of pronating feet.
I have a lad who has terrible hip problems and has suffered for years despite going to Doctors, Physio’s, Osteopaths and even Chiropractors. In fact his previous strength coach was a qualified physio, Nobody managed to help him. I looked down and saw a pair of pronating feet.
I could go on, but I think you must be getting a theme here.
What does “Pronate” mean? Simply put, the ankle is rolled in towards your midline, the arch of the foot is moving towards the floor.
It is incredibly common.
In many cases it is also self inflicted.
Lets take an analogy to help explain this.
Have you ever had to wear a cast? Maybe you broke your wrist or leg or something, or perhaps you know someone who did.
After they’ve work the cast for 6 weeks or so, what did the limb look like when the cast was removed? How did it compare to its opposite number?
It was smaller and weaker right? It had atrophied as a result of being cocooned and immobilised in the protective cast.
Makes perfect sense.
But day in, day out we cocoon our feet in our shoes. Often the shoes are restrictive or extremely supportive.
Would this not make the muscles in our feet atrophy?
So back to our broken arm. You’ve had the cast removed, what happens next? Usually you get refered to a physio (at least this used to happen) to get some exercises to rebuild the muscle and restore lost function in the newly healed limb.
After a month or so you should be right back where you started.
But we never do this for the feet, we simply fit a set of orthotics or similar.
Is there another way? Yes.
First off, unless you are out pounding the pavements for miles on end, lose the fancy runners. You only need the cushioning if you’re running on the streets. Get off road in a simpler or minimalist shoe and you’ll very quickly feel better. If you’re a gym user get the least supportive footware going, something like a school plimsole or a minimalist shoe. Better yet, forgo shoes entirely, we don’t allow them on our training floor at all, everyone is actually barefoot (not pretending in pair of vibrams). At home loose the footware entirely.
Then start to retrain the foot and ankle musculature. The following sequence is quick and easy, add it into your warm ups. I t fixed the runners knee issues I mentioned earlier in a single session, but do it regularly to really reap the rewards:
- Walk forwards and backwards on the balls of your feet (planter flexed)
- Walk forwards and backwards on the heels (dorsi flexed)
- Walk forwards and backwards on the outside edge of the feet (supinated)
- Walk forwards and backwards on the inside edge (pronated)
- Walk forwards and backwards pigeon toed (feet turned in)
- Walk forwards and backwards “Charlie Chaplin” (feet turned out)
This helps to rewire the brain-foot connections, sort of like defragmenting the hard drive and getting it running more efficiently.
I also strongly recommend picking things up with your toes, start easy with say a sock, then gradually move to harder objects like a pencil or a marble.
The last thing is to e aware of your foot position. Monkey Bar Gym founder John Hinds has a nice expression for this, he tells people to imagine they have ice skates on.
The blade of an ice skate runs centrally along the length of the foot, so to balance you have to keep the ankles pushed out a bit. Simply doing this and using the toes to grip the floor will activate the muscles in the feet and lift the arches.
It takes effort, but the long term benefits are well worth it. Your feet after all are your foundation, and like any structure, if the foundation isn’t solid, it will collapse.
See also this post from my friend Shane over at FFI, he has these five things to say about feet: CLICK HERE TO READ