Posted by Ignatius Loubser on Monday, September 23, 2013 Under: Strength

It seems for the past few years a “new” approach is being used by S&C coaches in that they claim the feet on the athletes body is the ALPHA & OMEGA. For the one reason being that it is the only point of contact the athlete has with the ground or athletic surface. I have decided to call these guys “The Foot clan” the original definition or origin of the foot clan is below:

“The Foot Clan is a fictional ninjutsu clan in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics and all related media. It is usually led by the Shredder. The Foot Clan was originally a parody of the criminal ninja clan the Hand in the Daredevil comics. In addition to the obvious similarity in their names, both clans originate from Feudal Japan, practice ninjutsu and black magic, and are now powerful global organized crime rings.” ( )


Don’t get me wrong... I am making fun of these guys, but only because once again they have taken a solid concept that is a useful and valid way to approach strength & conditioning and made it their gospel that dictates all that they do.


There are also new and different things that you will see out there like guys wearing shoes that looks like rubber feet, shoes that look perfectly normal also, but has super thin soles and wider front end to give the barefoot feel without damages to the actual foot sole. And personally I think this type of footwear is awesome to create better foot health and movement. This also coincides with the barefoot running movement that has also been going on for a while now and in my opinion also very good and healthy (within reason). In fact I use a barefoot running in soft grass as part of my rehab and pre-hab. prescription for almost all the sport people I work with. I like the barefoot running on soft grass because I truly believe it can automatically correct poor running habits without having the athlete consciously having to think about it.
(Below you can see the difference in feet "posture" in regular barefoot feet and regular shoed feet)

One thing that is said that is corrected by barefoot running is over striding,  when wearing a thick soled running shoe you can easily over stride and not feel the effect of it on your body because the shoe creates a buffer for the impact. However should you over stride when running barefoot it will hurt your foot and part of what is alleged to happen is you start to plant the foot in the correct position under the hips instead of in front of the hips so it doesn’t hurt you.

Over striding is one of the major causes of hamstring injuries in running / sprinting also over striding creates breaking forces (i.e. you run against yourself literally) which is what causes strain on the hamstring as well as lower limb. So if an athlete has the habit of over striding this a  easy way to help correct that without making them think about what they have to do while running, it happens almost by itself. This can be very useful seeing as thinking the whole time about what you need to do makes the movement slow and robot like until it becomes automatic, almost like when you 1st started to drive a stick shift car. Initially if you wanted to change gears you needed to think what you have to do step by step to change the gear but after a lot of practice it happens with absolutely no conscious thought of what has to happen, you can do it now while you are texting and reading your Satnav all at once and having a conversation with your grandma that is sitting in the back of the car!

Just as a side note over striding can also be caused by other factors that does not come from “THE FOOT”, the foot may however be part of the cause of it but it won’t help, you only work on the feet, part of over striding can also be tight hip flexors and weak NON-activated glutes, poor lumbar posture, weak abdominals etc.

So I just want to say training your feet alone will not activate your glutes or open up your hips!

The other methods I have been seeing to strengthen and improve the foot has been training on unstable surfaces with various modalities which looks a lot like circus acts to me. My take on training on unstable surfaces is quite simple at the moment: DON’T (it may change if I see evidence that can show the contrary). I do have exceptions for training on unstable surfaces which is usually related to broken bones and torn ligaments in which case I believe it helps reconnect the nervous system feedback mechanism a bit faster, as soon as that component is “fixed” I believe in training stability by focusing more on the feed forward mechanism in my exercise choice. Unstable surfaces in my humble opinion makes the body rely too much on the feedback to maintain balance and does not rely enough on feeding forward tension or movement which is primary in most sporting / running activities. This focus on feeding forward the movement will also allow the athlete to produce more force in the movement. As an example to illustrate my point for the guys that are unstable environment Jedi’s:

1.    The unstable environment single leg stability option would be standing on a BOSU ball on one leg doing an arabesque

2.    The stable environment single leg stability option would be standing on a paint can or the floor on one leg doing an arabesque (It can also be a wooden slant board if you want to live on the edge)

Obviously the exercises above is done barefoot! Try the paint can option you will be surprised how difficult it is compared to the floor. If you are a bit of a geek you can go to the link below where they found that even a small dosage of unstable surface training interferes with the development of strength, power, and aerobic capacity.


My advice to ensure healthy feet is to focus or add the following to your program

1.    Barefoot running on soft grass

2.    Train barefoot or with “barefoot shoes” or Chuck Taylors (Converse all stars) which is basically a thin soled flat shoe with wide toe. Especially on heavy lifts like squats, deadlift and even weightlifting movements.

3.    When standing or pushing into the floor during an exercise push down with your big toe and heel as to ALMOST try making a bridge with your big toe and heel NB!! Do not tilt you ankle outward!

4.    When jumping or doing exercises that require triple extension push the big toe into the floor HARD (Triple extension =  explosive hip, knee, ankle extension – Yes for those who are wondering the firing sequence is hip knee ankle – it does not originate from “The FOOT” )

5.    Ensure you have proper ankle mobility and toe mobility. This means ideal range in ankle dorsi flexion and plantar flexion inversion eversion and rotation and for the toes if you can move them almost like your fingers, you are in a good place.


In : Strength 

Tags: foot feet "barefoot running" "unstable surface" 
blog comments powered by Disqus

Make a free website with Yola