If you wish for a pain-free athletic life, your feet and hips are the most important structures in your athletic performance and injury prevention.
Your feet and ankles impact the mechanics of the muscles and joints in the entire body, and if the mechanics are faulty, your entire body—especially the hips and torso—will suffer from faulty mechanics. Improve the strength and mechanics of your feet, and you will improve almost everything else.
How do you know if you feet and ankles are functional or dysfunctional?
Try to perform some basic activities barefoot. Try walking, jogging, sprinting, agility, plyometrics and strength training. If you don’t succeed on the majority of them, your feet and ankles are not in the best shape.
Your need to train your feet and ankles (and toes) just like all the other body parts. Maybe even more so, because we do neglect them more than anything else.
The feet and ankles are meant to withstand high forces and absorb many shocks. Most of the athlete’s feet are not functional and the forces are absorbed by other body parts instead.
With dysfunctional feet, the body start sending fewer signals to the feet, which decreases the innervation and causes distortions in proprioception in the entire kinetic chain, which causes even more dysfunctions in the feet and ankles, which creates dysfunctional movement patterns thorough the entire kinetic chain. What a vicious downward spiral.
You can break this spiral with more focus on your feet.
Proper Feet and Ankles Mechanics
Your foot contact with the ground should follow the “three point rule”: Heel first, then the lateral (outside) portion of the foot, or out ball of the foot, and last, the big toe. If you foot is collapsing and moving differently, then you need to work on getting your feet and ankles in better shape.
With proper training you can correct many feet problems, such as fallen arches, pronation, smashed toes, flat feet, ankle collapsing, external rotation and many other problems. It can take weeks, months or even years in certain cases, if you’ve had your issues for really long time.
Basic Standing Foot and Toe Exercise
This exercise is simple, but maybe the most frustrating… because it is simple, we think it should be easy. This exercise will train your feet and ankles to stay and move in a proper alignment.
- Keep your feet perfectly parallel (no pointing in or out, as we often have to some degree).
- Put your weight slightly on the outside (very slightly) and push your ankles slightly outwards, while pushing the big toe down. This will lift the arches.
- Spread your toes. If they don’t want to move, help them with your hands. Manipulate them into spread and open position.
- Try to move your big toe away as much as possible.
- Hold the position for 30–60 seconds, and repeat 2–3 times, preferably as many times each day as you can. At least 3–5 times.
- Get yourself into the proper basic standing position from the previous exercise.
- While keeping your toes as spread out as possible, lift and curl all your toes upward, to the sky and hold for 3 seconds.
- Then curl the toes down into the ground and hold for 3 seconds.
- Repeat for 30–60 seconds.
This is the most important exercise for the stability of your lower body, and feet and ankles strength.
- Get ourself into a proper basic standing position and stand tall and straight.
- Lift one leg 15 inches off the ground. Don’t let the hips tilt or shift any direction.
- Keep your toes straight and opened while balancing on that one leg.
- Hold for at least 1 minute, then switch sides.
- When you get better, close your eyes for more difficulty.
- For even more difficulty, hold a weight in your hand and move it from hand to hand, around the body, over the head, and in any possible way.
- Hold the weight over your head.
- Let a partner throw you a medicine ball while you are balancing on one leg.
- Make small jumps up and down.
- Make small jumps left and right, forward and back.
Other feet and ankles articles that you may enjoy:
- Fit and Healthy Feet for Better Tennis and Less Injuries
- Spreading Toes for Enhanced Foot Function and Improved Performance
- Short Foot Exercise to Improve Performance and Prevent Injuries. Love Omega-3s.
- Foot Massage to Release and Stretch Tight Hamstrings
- Big Toe for Balance and Pain-free Life
Give your feet all the attention that they deserve. You will notice how your stability and strength improve rapidly. Your overall body function will improve as well. On the tennis court, you will find yourself faster and more explosive. You will also have fewer aches and tightness after your training.
Train your feet and ankles regularly. Give them a massage or myofascial release. When your feet are evenly strong and evenly functional, everything will feel better. It sounds almost like a miracle, and if you have problems believing it, give it a try for one month. Then let me know what you think. You may be super excited!