The Foot Stability
The stability of your foot is very important and is the basis for all your lifts. If the stability of the foot is not solid and you are not working to improve this, it means that you do not work on a solid foundation and from there many problems and mistakes in the technique can appear. If you want to be as strong as possible in your lifts, the first thing you need to make sure of is that your foot is working properly.
If your feet are not working right, from there you can have problems with your ankles, knees, hips, and many more. So it will be a smart thing to start looking from bottom to up and make sure you are good.
Testing the foot
Nowadays most of us have used to walk every time with shoes on and we forgot how to properly walk without no shoes. It’s good when you warm up, to try to do this without shoes and to walk freely in order to activate feet muscles.
- The simplest test is to look at your foot, feel all along the bottom of it and see if you can feel any calluses or places that feel as if they bear weight. This will be apparent by the quality of the skin; the softer the skin, the less wear, and weight it takes.
- Walk around slowly and see if you can feel where you place your foot each step you take. Visualize the areas that you noticed were callused as they touch the ground. Swap feet and do the same with the other foot. Is the pressure and wear at the same points on both feet?
Arches are usually characterized as either low or flat, medium or normal, and high (pes cavus). These 3 are the most usual foot arches.
- Low arch has approximately 20% of the population
- Normal or medium arch can be found in the majority of the population, approximately 60%, so if you are here is good.
- High arch has approximately 20% of the population
How to measure your arch?
Not sure about your foot type? Dip your foot in water and then step on a piece of cardboard and examine the print that remains.
Low Arch (Flat)
If your footprint looks like a complete foot, then you have a flat arch. Your foot probably rolls in (pronates) when you walk or run. Your low arches may contribute to muscle stress and joint problems.
Normal Arch (Medium)
If the middle part of your arch is about half-filled, this means you have a normal arch. Your arch naturally supports your bodyweight and pronates (rolls in) under a normal load.
If you see very little of your footprint, you likely have high arches. High arches may contribute to excessive strain on joints and muscles, as your feet may not absorb shock as well, especially if you perform a lot of impact or jumping activities.
Why does the arch matter and what are the causes?
Flat feet are not as proficient at keeping the body stable as feet that have a normal arch. As a consequence, people with flat feet are at a higher risk of developing muscle strain as the muscles of the body are forced to compensate for the foot’s lack of stability. While your body may be able to adapt to your foot’s lack of support during everyday activities, when you increase your activity level by even a small amount, it can cause significant pain and muscle strain.
Pronation and supination
Pronation is a tri-planar movement that involves:
- Abduction, eversion, and dorsiflexion of the subtalar joint
Supination involves the opposite tri-planar motion:
- Adduction, inversion, plantarflexion of the subtalar joint
Activation of the foot
The tripod foot.
Let’s start by talking about the three points that make up the foot tripod. First, we have the calcaneus (heel) as the first contact point. The medial contact point of the tripod is the first MTP joint or the first metatarsal head (ball of the foot). The lateral contact point is the head of the fifth MTP joint (base of the pinky toe). See the points highlighted. Easy enough to conceptualize and visualize, right? Understanding the structure of the tripod is important. We need each of these three points to be able to maintain contact with the ground. If one point cannot engage with the floor, then the rest of the structure above (lower leg, knee, upper leg, hip) will have its alignment and function compromised during movement. For example, an inability to load the medial contact point typically leads to excessive pronation, which often creates a cascade of rotational compensation in the knee, hip, and pelvis.
While there are more than 4 muscles that have a direct impact on the structural integrity of the foot tripod, these are the main ones. The posterior tibialis helps to supinate (think – “turn in”) the foot, which lifts the arch, facilitating inversion of the ankle. The abductor hallucis is key in controlling the “gripping” or “reaching” movement of the big toe through the midfoot. The extensor hallucis brevis is important in how it affects the first MTP joint, allowing the ball of the foot to settle onto the ground instead of the pad of the big toe simply just pressing into the floor. The flexor hallucis brevis runs through the sesamoid bones (for mechanical advantage) and ultimately helps the 1st metatarsal (big toe) to press down and engage with the floor, similarly to the abductor hallucis.
Each of these muscles helps provide structural integrity of the foot arch. Being able to have a normal foot arch is paramount for having a stable and functional foot tripod. If there are dysfunctional relationships between the ankle, rearfoot, midfoot, forefoot, or toes, our arch and thus our tripod will function less than optimally.
If you’ve ever felt yourself lose balance during a big lift, or have noticed your foot turning in or out beneath you, chances are you could benefit from a more stable foot position.
This is also why I recommend warming up and when the sessions are easier train barefoot or with minimalist shoes. The cushion provided by runners can not only diminish your kinesthetic awareness but also make it harder for you to actually ‘feel’ the floor beneath you.
Give this a try, not only on your barbell lifts but also on any unilateral work, and notice the difference it will make in your stability and performance.
Activation of the foot will stimulate also your proprioception. Remember, your feet are your foundation for overall body health and wellness.