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  • Writer's pictureSam Trotta

4 Pathways to Healthier, Stronger Feet

In the words of Forrest Gump's best bud, Lieutenant Dan Taylor: "Take care of your feet!"

Wise words from a wise man.

August 2023 is all about foot health awareness and cramp-free foot exercise at Striation 6.

Cared for, strengthened and repaired properly from pain and injuries, your feet will take you far.

Neglected, overlooked or inappropriately exercised, and they might well set you back from the activities, sports and day-to-day joys you care about the most through falls, increasing dysfunction and degradation of adjacent areas (the knees, hips, etc.)

Let's not let that happen.

Here are four pathways to healthier, stronger feet and better balance.

Do Some Foot-Specific Exercise

This may be an obvious point. It is also one that tends to be overlooked by far too many exercisers. I believe there are several reasons for this.

It might be as simple as people forgetting or neglecting their foot and ankle strengthening efforts, or not being aware that such efforts are necessary.

It might also be that you were told that your squats, deadlifts, lunges, "balance exercises" and cardiovascular activities (eg. walking, jogging, cycling) were "enough exercise" for your feet.

In a word: rubbish.

While I would not encourage you to overdo or overly complicate strength efforts for your feet, some specific foot and ankle strengthening goes a long way towards the health, strength and longevity of the area. Specific foot strength work can:

  • improve balance and your ability during exercise and activity that demands a lot of balance;

  • help to alleviate pain and injuries in the feet and the lower extremity;

  • drastically improve athletic performance; and (perhaps most importantly for your health-span),

  • keep you able-bodied in your performance of global strength training and cardiovascular activities.

Control Your Movement

If you have ever been to a gym, then you've likely seen "that guy" (or "that girl" - I wouldn't want to take credit away from women's ability to perform exercise in a poor, sloppy manner) bouncing up and down on a calf raise machine. This is an assured setup for:

  • exercise-based injuries to the feet and ankles

  • little (if any) strength gains in the actual tissues in the area

  • time in the gym wasted in vanity

Strong language, I know. However, know that I use it because I want everyone who makes an effort towards bettering their health through exercise to avoid the above costs of sloppy, uncontrolled exercise form.

Some ways you can ensure that you exert the most control over your cramp-free foot exercise efforts include:

  1. Moving slowly through the full range of motion that you have available for the exercise.

  2. Having an exercise professional you on how to execute each exercise properly and with you desired intention.

  3. Going easy on loads. Many people will tend to overestimate how much load they can handle for feet and ankle exercises. This is particularly true with "calf raise" exercise. Easing back on the load will most likely allow for fuller range of motion through the exercise, greater sensation and, ultimately, better and truer results.

Phase In "Wobble" Slowly and Progressively

Or, balance your balancing efforts, as I like to tell people.

I'll elaborate (just a bit).

In the late 90s / early 00s, "functional training" swept the exercise world. This was, in my opinion, a revolt against bodybuilding and aerobics (maybe they just hated the bright spandex?) that, among other things, advocated for exercise participants exercise on wobbly surfaces, often while standing on one leg at a time.

Personal Trainers got very busy by taking this philosophy on, putting prospective clients through their paces with these types of scenarios, and sold multitudes of sessions to men and women who could not keep their balance with the "HA! See - you can't keep your balance, so you need me!" method.

Yes, negotiating "balancing" acts in exercise can be valuable - for specific goals set by particular people and, most importantly, in appropriate ways.

These progressions should be modified slowly, from more supported and restrained (ie. safe) scenarios to those that are less so.

Send us an email if you are interested in learning more about this progressive form of "balance" training.

Check In On The Areas Adjacent to Your Feet

Dysfunction and instability in your knees, hips and lower back can have an acute effect on your foot function and sensation.

Addressing the strength and stability of these areas can, in turn, do wonders to alleviate (what seems like) the foot problem you might be experiencing.

In my personal training practice, I see this kind of thing all the time with my clients. And, I can tell you from first-hand experience that it is true. I have had bouts of foot and ankle pain relieved and function restored by addressing opposite-side hips, knee flexion and rotation through my lower spine. The human body is wondrous in its ability to derive compensatory mechanisms to keep us moving. How these build up and manifest as pain or discomfort in certain areas is not always obvious.

Making sure that we have as much overall stability as possible in the feet and in the areas adjacent to them is an integral piece of to keep stable and moving pain-free.

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