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Choosing the right shoe and how to strengthen feet

I found this great article on choosing the right running shoe. From what I see in the article the ACSM is promoting shoes with less support and less heel; a minimalist shoe.


One of the key components to this article is that along with a good shoe you need to have a strong foot especially if someone is wanting to run barefoot or with minimalist shoes after wearing conventional shoes for years. So what kind of exercises should you be doing?

Everyone is different and their faulty movement patterns, faulty motor control, and or muscular imbalances should be addressed.  There is no one right answer but these exercises are a good start.

Strengthen feet by starting with the arch

A lot of the exercises that people do to improve foot strength often strengthen the extrinsic, muscles not originating in the foot, muscles.  These exercises include calf raises, towel crunches and tubing exercises for inverting/everting the foot.  These are not bad exercises and they do have an important role in propelling you forward when you run but the often neglected muscles are the intrinsic muscles.   There are two exercises that I often prescribe to my patients; the short foot and vele lean

Short Foot

To perform the short foot first try it while you are sitting.  This takes your weight off your feet and helps you focus on the skill. Lift up your toes while keeping the rest of the foot on the ground. You will notice that the inside arch of your foot has increased in height.  Lower the toes down while trying to keep the height of the arch.  Sorry the video is not the same as my description but it does show how the foot becomes shortened when you perform the exercise.

Another way to perform the short foot is to draw your knee inwards to increase the pressure on the base of your big toe (First metatarsal head) and then draw the knee outwards while you try to keep the pressure on the base of the big toes.  Have equal pressure on the base of the big toe, your heel and the base of your little toe.  Hold this position.

Once this position can be performed more load needs to be placed on the foot so that it can be maintained in different positions. From a seated position switch to a kneeling lunge position to a standing position and finally to a single stance position. On of the exercises I advance my patients to when they can perform the exercise standing is the Vele Forward Lean.

Vele Forward Lean

To perform this exercise stand straight, while maintaining the short foot posture, lean the body forward pivoting at the ankles.  Go as far forward as you can but do not let the heels come off the ground.  Make sure that you don’t “break” at the hips; the body should be kept straight.  When you become more proficient at this you can sway left and right. If your toes are flexing or curling you are compensating.  Performing simpler exercises first.

There are many progressions of these exercises.  The ultimate goal is being able to perform regular activities while maintaining a healthy arch. I often work on maintaining my arch while performing kettlebell swings, cleans, presses and snatches.

For some other interesting exercises you can check out this video.  It combines exercises that are specific for the toes, the towel crunch, as well as some other potentially helpful exercises.

Remember there are many roads to Rome when you need to strengthen your feet but make sure you have the basics first.

I hope this helps you strengthen your feet

Dr Notley

P.S. You can also check out my post on  barefoot running.

Originally posted 2014-04-16 09:24:57.