By Rehan Iqbal
Runners often spend a lot of time working on the strength of their legs, hips and even their core. Unfortunately, very often runners neglect the foundation of their running strength – their feet! It's very important to keep the muscles of your feet and your lower legs strong and flexible for good performance when walking and running. In this article, we describe several good exercises to help you keep your feet strong. Read on to learn more.
Why Is It Important to Have Strong Feet?
One reason it's very important to have strong, flexible feet is that weak, rigid feet are prone to pain and injury. Furthermore, if you neglect the strength and flexibility of your feet, you invite injury to your legs and hips. Additionally, feet that are not strong and flexible don't function in a coordinated manner. This has a negative impact on your performance as a runner.
It's Important to Understand the Structure of the Feet
There are two types of muscles in the feet and the lower legs.
The "foot core" is made up of intrinsic or local muscles. These are the muscles of the feet that perform the functions of shock absorption and maintain the shape of the arch of your foot. These are small and intricate muscles.
Larger muscles, known as global muscles, perform the functions of extending and flexing the toes and moving the ankles.
If your foot core muscles are weak, you may have an unstable arch. This problem causes poor impact absorption and may also cause faulty biomechanics. If your local muscles are not able to stabilize your foot quickly, this task has to be taken over by the global muscles.
Global muscles are not designed for this purpose, and they don't do it well. It takes longer for these larger muscles to react to instability in the arch, and this can actually make the problem worse. Weak foot core muscles can cause global muscle overuse injuries in the long run, such as plantar fasciitis or even stress fractures.
What Can You Do to Strengthen Your Foot Core?
There are a lot of exercises that strengthen both the foot core and the global muscles simultaneously. Examples include using your toes to pick up marbles and curling your toes to pull a towel into a ball. These are good exercises, but if you want to strengthen the local muscles of your foot, it's important to focus on these small muscles.
The best time to do this is before your running season begins. Whenever you have off time, you should devote a significant amount of it to strengthening your feet and your ankles.
How Do You Focus On The Foot Core?
Here are five of the best foot core exercises. Note that all of these exercises should be done barefoot.