Our feet are important, but they often get left out of strength and conditioning programs. They are the first point of contact with the ground, and therefore help create a stable foundation for the rest of our movement. Whether you are a dancer, football player, or CrossFit athlete, adding in a little foot strengthening will seriously help you improve your overall technique, strength and balance-- all the way up to your hips!!
A little background on the foot...
The foot is quite a complex structure, made up of 26 bones, 33 joints and lots of muscles and ligaments. Knowing that, it should make sense as to why we should take better care of our feet and exercise them more often!
I want to chat specifically about the “Foot Intrinsic Muscles,” which are the small muscles located within the foot itself. They form and support the arches of your feet, which supports the rest of your body when you are in a weight bearing position. They help with small motor movements, such as moving the toes, and work together with the bigger muscles for movements such as walking and running. These muscles are basically at work all day long!
Weakness in the foot intrinsics can lead to all sorts of problems including plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, and poor alignment/pain up to the knees and hips. Also, if you have a history of previous foot/ankle injuries (like an ankle sprain) and never worked on strengthening your feet back up after the injury, they are probably still pretty weak.
When we start to feel weakness or pain in the foot, we tend to slap some supportive shoes on and call it a day. Having supportive shoes or inserts is great, however it also means that those small intrinsic muscles can get a little lazy because they no longer have to work as hard. I’m not saying you need to go barefoot all the time, but if you are going to add an insert to your shoe you must always also work on strengthening the feet so your body doesn't start to use it as a crutch. You must work to find the cause to truly solve the problem!!
Want to learn the BEST exercise for the feet??
Doming is a simple and effective exercise that will help you start to develop an awareness of how to activate these small muscles. From there, it is super easy to add it into all the exercises and barre work you are already doing.
Doming can influence the entire alignment of the leg. Let's use a plie for an example- if your arch falls down, your knee will tip in and the hip will turn in. By simply DOMING the foot, you should find that your knees move over the center of the feet and it is much easier to use your turn out muscles.
Check out the video below to learn how to perform doming:
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