Of the human body’s 206 bones, about 25% of them are found in the feet.
20 physiological joints.
Over 100 ligaments.
Almost 20 tendons.
Activated by at least 20 muscles.
And unless you’re spending a whole bunch of time walking around on your hands 😉 you’re spending a TON of time walking and balancing on your feet.
Your feet are complex, to say the least. And as your feet move and strike the ground, they send cues to the rest of your body as to how to react and respond to movement.
The better your quality of foot movement, the better cues your body will receive. Poor movement, (say, ankle stiffness or crappy balance) will send poor cues which can result in compromised movement, compensations, limitations, pain and injury.
If your body was a house, your feet are it’s foundation. And a faulty foundation doesn’t make for a stable situation.
Stronger foundation (feet) = more stable base (body)= better outcome and longevity (health & performance).
Having a strong base of support is essential for improving strength, balance, performance and technique.
This is done by creating what’s known as tripod stance, or active foot.
How to create an active foot.
Your weight should be distributed evenly through three parts of the foot:
- The heel
- The first metatarsal (underneath your big toe)
- The 5th metatarsal (underneath your 5th toe)
This creates your “tripod”.
Ideally, all three of these points should be in contact with the ground which helps in maintaining the arch of the foot.
When squatting and completing other single leg exercises, think about tracking your knees over your toes and “through” the tripod.
NOT doing this and tipping or turning to the outside or inside of the foot can cause a “collapse” at the foot/ankle, which can result in problems and pain at the knees, hips, or low back. Many times what we might consider to be”flat feet” is actually a crappy tripod.
Training your active foot.
- Stop “dancing” when you’re lifting. Happy feet (constantly bouncing, shifting and tapping around) = sad squats (and lunges, deadlifts, overhead presses…)
- Notice if and when you are picking your toes up off the ground or, scrunching them up. Aim for keeping firm contact.
- This is harder to feel when wearing sneakers, especially those with a higher heels or a ton of cushion and padding. If you can’t do your workout without shoes (or your gym doesn’t allow it) see if you can at least get your warmup in while barefoot.
- Make sure you spend some time during the day/at home barefoot. When you have nothing in-between you and the ground, you’ll increase your body’s ability to adapt to the constant micro-movements of the foot and ankle.
It isn’t enough to just place those 3 points of contact on the ground though. Watch this to see what I mean:
Try creating an active foot today. Carve out some time to get barefoot, even if it’s just around your house and if possible, try completing some of your warmups or training sessions barefoot. Like most new skills or cues you may find it to be awkward at first, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes and the more positive benefits you’ll reap.