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Foot strength for runners

August 15th, 2011

Also in today’s Globe, I have a very short piece about foot strength for runners:

During a one-hour run, your feet push off the pavement about 10,000 times – enough of a workout to build some pretty impressive foot muscles, you’d figure.

“Considering the countless miles that runners put in, most think that they have very strong feet,” says Matt Ferguson, the president of Vancouver-based Progressive Health Innovations. “And they do – but only for one motion.”

Running does wonders for the muscles involved in plantar flexion – pointing your toes toward the floor – but leaves a host of other small muscles throughout the foot and ankle weak. The result is an increased risk of common running injuries like plantar fasciitis, shin splints, Achilles tendon problems and even ankle sprains… [READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE]

The article takes a brief look at a few difference ways of strengthening your feet, ranging from barefoot running to old-school soup-can-in-a-sock exercises to fancy new gadgets like the AFX Ankle Foot Maximizer.

  1. August 15th, 2011 at 15:53 | #1

    I’d add one more thing, which has been very effective for me: Hiking barefoot.

    I can run three miles on the road in my bare feet pretty effortlessly. But hiking that same distance barefoot leaves my feet exhausted and cramping. This is after spending the last two years hiking and running in minimasist shoes like Vibrams exclusively, btw. So you’d think I’d have pretty strong feet already.

    One of the things people getting into barefoot-style running forget is both Barefoot Ken Bob and Barefoot Ted spent a lot of time hiking and walking barefoot before they took up running.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that hiking barefoot is key to foot strength.

  2. August 15th, 2011 at 16:01 | #2

    This article assumes that running requires consciously “pushing” off the ground with the feet. But pushing isn’t necessary or correct. The small muscles of the feet can hardly provide much useful propulsion for our large bodies.

    Running is a motion of lifting the feet (using the hamstrings) and falling forward. This is examined in great detail by Dr. “Pose” Romanov, and taught by many running coaches.

  3. alex
    August 15th, 2011 at 21:36 | #3

    @Tuck: Interesting — I hadn’t really thought about the differences between walking and running barefoot. If that’s the case, maybe the fact that I stay barefoot all day around the house actually helps my foot strength!

    @Ashish: You’re thinking too narrowly about what “pushing” means. I promise you than the plantar flexion muscles in your feet and ankles are working very hard when you run, regardless of what form you’re using. For example, if you’re forefoot striking, each time you land, those muscles are working eccentrically to prevent your heel from hitting the ground.

  1. August 16th, 2011 at 16:50 | #1