Do you want to know a secret in regards to what people ignore when working out for better performance? I have said it before in past articles. Our body is a wonderful machine and there is one sub-system within the human body that allows us to protect ourselves, be nimble, absorb shock, and transfer force like a pole vaulter’s stick for explosiveness. This is our ankle/foot complex. Every bone and joint in our foot has a specific function and each component feeds off each other. There is a reason why there is not a good ankle joint replacement surgery because the joint is too intricate to capture all the details of what our feet can do.
In order to appreciate the complexity of this design, I have to explain the basics of how our feet work. When people talk about the foot, the terminology that is often used to describe our foot posture is supination and pronation. In simple terms, supination is used to describe high arch posture and pronation is for flat feet posture. Each posture has a specific function and our feet need to go through both postures to have optimal feet health. One big myth is that having a high arch or flat feet is bad and we need to buy shoes to adjust our feet. Let me try to explain why this idea can hurt our feet just as much as it can help our feet. The foot is a sensory system that guides the rest of our body in what to do. A maladaption within this normal supination and pronation pattern is influenced by our feet sensory system not being trained enough.
The walking cycle is an efficient movement; starting from loading onto our heel first, then rolling off our big toe. Our arms swing is a result of this transfer of force from our legs traveling up, resulting in a light whipping motion of our opposite arm. When we contact our heels first, this allows our legs to be light to absorb shock. When we roll off our big toe (no exception…it must be the big toe), then this allows our legs to be rigid like a pole vaulter’s stick to propel us forward with minimal force. Did you know that our shin is surrounded by muscles (front, inner and outer side, back) that connects to our big toe. When we roll onto and load our big toe, this activates all parts of our shin that allows it to work like a pole vaulter. Sprinting and running demonstrates this efficient pole vaulting pattern. It is not uncommon for me to emphasize and restore any big toe dysfunction when managing joint and muscle pain to the upper body like headaches, neck and shoulder pain. If we cannot transfer force efficiently, the body will attack the weakest link.
To appreciate the architecture and engineering of our feet, I will dive deeper into the nitty gritty of this subject matter. Each part of the foot has a specific function that feeds off each other. There are four parts to the foot: ankle joint, rear, middle, and forefoot. The ankle joint consists of the two shin bones and the talus. The talus is a floating bone within the ankle complex that can cause havoc when it is off axis especially in an ankle sprain. The ankle joint role is to transfer force up the leg. I like to think the rear-foot as the driver of the system. The rear-foot tells the mid foot what to do. If the heel position is diving inwards, the tendency is to stiffen the foot in a high arch position. If the heel position is diving outwards, the tendency is to collapse the arch. The extent of how the mid-foot expresses this supination or pronation is another story. There are times when the mid-foot becomes a problem child and does not follow what the rear-foot is telling it. The prognosis is lower since things are working out of its design.
Lastly in locomotion, we have the fore-foot. The fore-foot tries to correct and adapt to any issue that is caused by the rear and mid-foot. The goal is to end the walking cycle, rolling off of the big toe as stated above. When you load too far inside of your arch, the fore-foot cannot redirect this force and then one might roll off of the inner side of the big toe resulting in bunion and tendon overuse issues. When you load too far outside within the arch, then the pattern is rolling off your smaller toes (2nd to 5th digits) resulting in metatarsalgia, neuroma, hammertoe, etc. Our toes expresses over production of strength to make up for other weaker links within the core by clawing and over-gripping through the toes. This is one factor that clues me in whether someone has an inefficient core or not.
You have made it to the last paragraph! If you can grasp my illustration of this design, it is easier to decipher how modern society has resulted us to maladapt through our feet. Shoes over protect our feet at an early age where we start to lose our ability to adapt and be nimble. We sit on our rear all day from an early age. We stopped climbing, crawling, being active in early schooling causing our feet to become deprived of this input and become underdeveloped. We over grips with our toes to feel secure in our movement. I hope you can picture this cycle. In the follow up article to this introductory piece, I will explain how to manage plantar fasciitis (heel pain) and ankle sprain.
If you need assistance or advice with a nagging ankle/foot pain, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please share with anyone who you know that is dealing with a chronic ankle/foot injury. ReVITALize Rehab Club designs workout plan to improve of physical fitness and performance specialization. Our feet is a huge system that can help one load and explode a lot faster and higher. Contact us if you are interested in taking your fitness and training to the next level.