Five ways that athletes can improve their foot strength

So you might be a runner, a basketball player or maybe you’re a soccer player? 

Whatever your athletic endeavours may be, if you’re trying to take your performance to the next level, you’re probably in the gym working hard. You’ve probably been told to build strength so you've been performing squats, deadlifts, bench presses maybe even some chin-ups.

Building your explosiveness and general strength base to improve performance and for injury prevention purposes is absolutely important, but has anyone ever told you to go to the gym and train your feet? 

I’m guessing it’s never crossed your mind to train your feet!

I mean why wouldn’t you? Your foot muscles aren’t any different to any other muscle in the body. They adapt to load and can get stronger. But it rarely seems to cross peoples' minds to train them as such.

Training your feet is important for injury prevention and performance. They are an important part of the kinetic chain when it comes to running, jumping or any movement really.

So where do you start?  Everyone knows what a bench press is, but what is a big toe press?

As a Podiatrist, I’m here to help start you on a journey to stronger feet!

So here’s a little routine you can do. Some exercises can be done daily, while others should be done 2-3 times a week.

TOE SPLAYING:
Spread your toes apart from each other. Try not to curl or extend your toes. This can be done daily.

SHORT FOOT EXERCISE:
Sit on a chair barefoot. Your knee and foot should make a 90 degree angle. Without scrunching your toes, try to shorten your foot by raising the arch in your foot. A nice little cue that I find that works well is to raise your arch while pressing your heel and big toe into the ground. You can focus on one foot at a time or do both at once. Again, it’s important not to curl your toes and not move at your knee and ankle, just your arch. It’s harder than you think! Practice this throughout the day. You can even practice while sitting at your desk. Once you're able to complete it seated, try performing the exercise standing on two legs, then on one leg. This can be done daily.

BIG TOE PRESSES:
Press your big toe into the floor while extending your other four toes. Hold each press for 8 seconds and perform 12-15 reps per foot. This can be done 2-3 times a week.

LEG SWINGS:
These leg swings are not the typical dynamic leg swings that you might do to warm up before your chosen activity (really big leg swings). These leg swings are much smaller and purposeful.  They aim to challenge our balance plus hip and ankle stability. Stand on one leg in your bare feet and attempt to create the short foot posture. Swing the opposite leg forward and back 15 times. Without rest, swing the same leg left and right in front of your stance leg, also 15 times. Repeat this sequence without resting, then repeat on your opposite leg.

CALF RAISES TO BIG TOE PRESSES:
Stand on the edge of a stair barefoot. Let your heels drop below the level of the stair. Then perform a traditional calf raise, but then proceed and press onto your big toe. A common mistake I often see is people rolling their foot outwards during calf raises, performing them this way is ineffective and defeating the purpose of performing them. This part is difficult for most and why we must press up onto the big toe! Pressing onto the big toe is much more indicative of how we run and move during gait. Feel free to hang on to something for balance. Perform 12-15 reps. These can be done 2-3 times a week.