Break Plateaus by Training the Feet

The feet are often overlooked in high-performance training for athletes, but also in more general training. In this article, I will cover;

  • Why it is important to train your feet

  • Why I believe the feet are often overlooked in training programs

  • A few ways you can train your feet to improve your health and performance


Why it is important to train your feet


If you look at the picture above you can see how all of the force generated by the body must pass through the foot in order to be expressed into the ground.


The force produced by your glutes must travel downwards through the feet and into the ground. If your feet cannot handle what your hips are producing, your body will limit how much strength you are able to use, in an effort to prevent injury. For more information, check out our article on Structural Balance.


For example, a single leg jumper might feel as though their feet, ankles or knees give out when they try to jump their highest!


The body can be compared to a car. The hips being the main force producers being the engine and the feet being the tires that transfer all the force of the engine into the ground. Although the tires of a car do not in themselves produce high amounts of force, they have to be able to handle and transfer force. If you have weak unstable feet it is like having flat tires on a car. You can put a more powerful engine into it but it will not go any faster until the tires are properly filled!


So then why are the feet overlooked?


There are a few reasons I believe that contributes to the feet being overlooked or even ignored in training plans.

The first reason is that in today's society we neglect and avoid using our feet! We wear shoes constantly and we avoid using our feet in day to day life. Shoes are being made with increasingly thicker foam soles and support. We are essentially casting our foot in an effort to protect our feet. Imagine if we treated other body parts like this, and cast them. The muscles in the immobilized joint would become weak and atrophy. Humans evolved walking on uneven surfaces with their bare feet.


The second reason that contributes to the feet being ignored, is that trainers or coaches will often say, "the glutes and low back are the biggest and most powerful muscles in the body" justifying them to focus on the larger muscles while avoiding other smaller ones. While focusing on getting stronger glutes and other large muscles will lead to quick improvement, you might notice that you plateau after some time. The feet or ankles might be what is limiting how much force you are able to actually use. This is problematic because the majority of trainers are focusing on creating quick, short term improvements so they can advertise quick results for their clients. For this reason, trainers and coaches might prioritize quick results over long term health and sustained improvement.


3 Exercises to Train the Feet


Each one of these 3 exercises can help with a specific issue or weakness pertaining to the foot! Even if you do not have pain or issues with the foot these exercises can improve performance as well!


Flat Feet


Plantar Fasciitis and Turf Toe


General Soreness and Tightness


Final Point


The body functions as a chain, with some links being stronger than others. The weakest link is what holds the whole system back. The feet can often be the limiting factor for how well you perform. Rather than simply packing in more and more strength, focus on eliminating your weakest link and you will break plateaus and perform better while preventing injury!


If you found this article helpful please share!


Thank you for reading,


Matt


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