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Our feet are used to transfer force from our body to the ground and from the ground to our body. Because of that, our feet have to be mobile in order to absorb forces placed on our body from the ground (i.e., landing) and also stable enough to exert forces to the ground (i.e., jumping).
Think of Newton’s third law of motion: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” So when we push the ground with our feet, the ground will also push on our feet and, ta-da, we are walking. Since our foot is not independent from the body, forces that travel through the foot also are felt through the ankle, knee, hip, back, and up the kinetic chain.
Dysfunction in the foot, typically overpronation (foot rolls inward) or a collapsed arch, can cause many problems up the kinetic chain in the knees, hips, and back. Overpronation and flatter feet are linked to plantar fasciitis, heel pain, and Achilles tendonitis. Overpronation also causes knee pain, hip pain, and back pain and puts you at more risk of rupturing a tendon or ligament such as the Achilles, ACL, and MCL. How does this happen?
Notice the force arrow labeled “3.” This horizontal force causes valgus at the knee, meaning that the knee bends inward. Valgus at the knee opens up a whole host of injuries such as ACL, MCL, and meniscus tears especially if you are performing dynamic activities such as running, cutting, pivoting, jumping, or landing. So maintaining a proper arch not only helps to protect the foot, but also all the joints up the leg.
To prevent these issues, here are three exercises you can do to strengthen your foot and maintain good arch support even with activities.
1. Towel Scrunches
- Place your foot flat on a towel and try to scrunch the entire length of the towel under your foot.
- Make sure your heel and middle foot do not come off the ground.
- Do this for 3 sets of 10 three times a week.
2. Marble Pick Ups
- Try to pick up marbles (or another small object with your toes).
- Do this exercise for 3 sets of 10 three times a week.
3. Toe Taps
As we start to build the strength of all the foot intrinsic muscles we can move to a standing exercises called toe-taps.
- Start by standing on one foot and swinging the other leg up and around the stationary foot.
- Make sure to keep the arch of the stationary foot high the entire time.
- Do 3 sets of 10 on each leg three times a week
Strengthening the foot and supporting the arch will decrease chances of injury by placing bones and joints in the proper position. After working on the foot, why not move up the chain and take at look at your ANKLE.