I
work in an environment where, when we talk about core stability, we definitely refer to the muscles of the midsection: abdominals, spinal muscles, hip muscles. Pilates is very focused on having every action originating from the core and, from there, radiating to the limbs. Arm and legs are always connected to the power house as they move. This ensures stability, control, power and precision in the way we move, inside and outside the pilates studio.

“We also have a foot core, the muscles in the foot behave in the same way.”

Dr. Patrick McKeon (athletic therapist and professor of exercise science at Ithaca College in New York).

So happy to hear that! Finally somebody who realises that the feet are important, and we should work them out! McKeon and his colleagues published their “foot core paradigm” research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The piece points out that sports doctors and therapists too often ignore the intricate, web-like muscles in our feet. The co-authors of the report believe that pain in the lower leg or feet can–and should–be treated initially by strengthening the feet. Yet, many clinical remedies for plantar fasciitis and heel pain, fail to point out the importance of strengthening and stretching for the foot

We can distinguish the muscles of the feet in two main categories:

  • Extrinsics: these are the bigger muscles. The ones that originate in the lower leg and insert in the foot: the calf muscles, the tibialis, the peroneus…
  • Intrinsics: they originate and insert in the foot. They aren’t designed to execute big movements, they instead provide stability and balance as you move.

These muscles actually are dynamic deformation sensors in the foot that give us a lot of information about where the body is in space,” McKeon says.

Unfortunately we rely too much on external support, like rigid shoes and orthotics and, that web of tiny little muscles is in a comatose state!

Walking is not enough to bring them back to life, unless you have the chance of walking on the beach  for few hours a day!

Specific exercises, executed barefoot, are the only hope we have to resuscitate the foot core and allow it to do its job. “It’s not a matter of developing a great deal of strength,” McKeon says. “You’re never going to develop this unbelievably big intrinsic foot muscle. Instead, it’s more the idea of learning how to activate them and getting them to respond to deformation.”

The “foot dooming” (or “short foot”) is one of the most efficient exercises to wake up this group of muscles. This movement primarily strengthens the abductor hallucis muscle, an important stabilizer of the foot. Research has shown that the abductor hallucis is also an elevator of the medial arch, meaning that strengthening the muscle may reduce or eliminate the collapsing of the arch associated with flat feet and also helps immensely the bunion condition.

How to perform the short foot exercise:

  • Sit in a chair with both feet placed flat on the floor.
  • Raise the arch of your foot by sliding your big toe toward your heel without curling your toes or lifting your heel.
  • Hold the position for few seconds then relax and repeat.
  • Once you feel comfortable performing the short foot movement you can gradually progress to performing the exercise while standing and then eventually from a single-leg standing position.

Reps: 5-10 reps each foot (20 seconds)

Together with the short foot”, other exercises that involve the intrinsic muscles include spreading the toes as wide as possible, the towel exercise, and picking up a marble with your toes.

 Stay tuned and check our future blogs, vlogs and newsletter! We’ll send your way a video with the execution of all these exercises very soon!