I’ll come straight with the business today folks. Last time, we talked about ways we can help loosen up muscular adhesions and “shut down” tissues through some soft tissue therapy modalities, as well as ways you can static and dynamically stretch out the inhibiting tissues. We set up the platform for corrective movement to occur last time, so for today, we’re going to talk about activation and integration work that will help you get a much stronger and more stable foot.
Without further ado, we’ll go on with the activation work.
3) Activation: Big Toe Pushdowns
I found this video online which demonstrates a good method on how to establish a healthy arch:
This is a nice little exercise you can do to help activate a muscle called your flexor hallicus longus, which can be found directly underneath the arch of the foot. Start off with your foot and ankle in a neutral position. To find “neutral” position, it is determined when you have equal pressure on your first and 5th metatarsal, as well as your heel, in other words called the “tri-post” of the foot. Once you have found this position, you push down through the big toe, as well as maintaining neutral foot while you are accomplishing this, and hold for 5 seconds, 8-10 times for each foot. You may find that one foot is much harder to maintain the neutral foot position without your foot getting fatigued, so spend a longer amount of time with your weaker foot to bring it back up to par with the stronger foot. Once 5 seconds gets easy, start adding more time (up to 20-30 seconds) and reducing the total amount of sets, spending no more than 2 minutes per set on each foot (which would roughly equal 3-5 sets). The main goal with maintaining neutral foot is to not let the ankle to roll out (inversion), or in (eversion, or the arch collapsing).
4a) Integration Part I: Foot/Ankle Excursion (Star Drill)
Once you’ve established some foot/ankle stability, let’s add some mobility work to the mix! A great way to do this is to employ tri-planar work, so some sagittal/frontal/transverse open chain leg drivers will do the trick. Try to shoot for 3 reps back and forth each direction (in sync, out of sync), building up to 5-6 reps. Once this gets easy, try employing some speed tweaks, driving your elevated leg either slow or fast, while still trying to maintain balance. Trust me when I say that this can get pretty difficult pretty quickly!
4b) Integration Part II: Leap Matrix (In Sync)
After we’ve mastered some closed chain single leg balance work, let’s make it even more dynamic by adding a leap into the mix! Sticking with the tri-planar theme, leap from one foot to the other, ensuring a soft, stable landing on each foot. 3 reps each way will suffice for starters, building up to 5-6 reps each plane of movement. Once again, try adding in speed tweaks, adding speed to increase the demand for acceleration and deceleration of the movement.
These are just a few of many strategies you can employ to improve the health and function of your feet. Please keep in mind that the feet and ankles work intimately with the hips. One cannot perform well without the other also working well, so if you continue to struggle with foot issues, it may be worth considering looking somewhere else to find the culprit. A movement specialist absolutely can help guide you in the right direction so you aren’t churning your wheels but never getting anywhere.
Have a great weekend everyone!