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The Short-Foot Exercise for Stronger Feet
Foot/heel/Achilles issues have given me trouble over the years. The same issues are the scourge of many a runner. Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles tendon pain andmetatarsalgiaare a few of the problems one can experience as a result of faulty foot and lower-leg mechanics.
The causes of these injuries are often multi-faceted and thus are the solution(s). It seems that weakness of the foot muscles may be a prominent issue. One idea on the mechanism of plantar fasciitis is that the intrinsic foot muscles do a poor job of controlling forces going through the foot. If the stresses of running and walking arent distributed adequately then we may overstress the plantar fascia and that may trigger pain. We then need to find a way to unload the stressed tissues. (Please note that this may or may not be what causes plantar fasciitis. There are a lot of questions on how this and other lower-limb pain develops.This studydiscusses the poor understanding of plantar fasciitis and the difficulty in measuring foot mechanics.) If weak and underperforming foot muscles are part of the problem then how do we bring them back on line?
Lots of muscles and joints in those feet.
Among many strategies to address foot pain is an exercise known as the short-foot exercise or foot doming. As the name implies, this exercise has you using the intrinsic foot muscles to create a dome by pulling the metatarsal heads (balls of the toes) toward the heel, which shortens the length of the foot.
The short-foot or foot dome exercise.
More than anything this is a brain exercise. Chances are that when you first try this exercise you wont do it very well. Youll struggle, steam may come out of your ears and youll get frustrated. Dont be a baby and give up immediately though. This is a new skill and it takes focused attention and time to develop skills. Keep at it. It likely wont take you very long to figure it out. For me, the challenge of mastering this exercise is nothing compared to the frustration of being sidelined by foot pain.
Also, try the exercise on your non-hurting foot. If youre like me, youll find that its easier to do which again may be an indicator that the source of your pain are muscles that arent doing their job correctly.
You may experience cramping. Thats fine. It means youre doing the exercise correctly. You can either relax the foot muscles and try again or do what Ive done and hold the short foot until the cramping passes. It hurts a bit but Ive found the pain to pass quickly.
The muscles involved in this exercise arent given to being big and strong. We need them to work a lot for a long time, so we need to condition their endurance. Therefore we need to hold the short foot position for time and we need to do the exercise often throughout the day. The good thing is you need no equipment to do this and you can do it anywhere. You dont have to take off your shoes either.
I think this video does a good job of describing the exercise: