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  • Lionel Pannunzio PT / SCS

Introduction


In soccer and actually in almost every sport, it is very important we have a well developed foot strength to support the demands of the activity.


In today's post we will talk about the different muscles involved in a healthy foot for performance and we will go through my favorite exercises to strengthen them.







Foot Muscles


Intrinsic and Extrinsic muscles of the Foot


There are two types of muscles that influence the strength in the foot:

  1. Extrinsic muscles which are located in the lower leg and calf area and their tendons finish in the foot

  2. Intrinsic muscles ( picture) which are the short muscles in the sole of the foot and in between the arches. These are called intrinsic foot muscles and are crucial for sport performance. Without a solid intrinsic musculature Athletes are compromising speed and power and more important expensing themselves to possible injuries.



Signs of Foot muscle weakness


  • Foot cramping is an early sign that the foot intrinsic muscles aren’t coping with the load and need to be strengthened .


  • People with plantar heel pain


  • Chronic ankle instability patients have smaller intrinsic foot muscles


  • You can improve balance in those with CAI (chronic ankle instability)by improving foot intrinsic strength


  • Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome: may be related to overactive long toe flexors and weak intrinsic foot muscles.


  • Toe deformities in young athletes, hammer toes, claw toes, bunions


  • Therefore we need to start paying more attention to these important tiny muscles when Athletes are complaining of foot pain




Foot Exercises


1. Toe Yoga


Toe yoga drill for baseline mobility and strength for the foot


The following drills will show you how to tap into the intrinsic muscle of the foot .


These are a combination of baseline strength, coordination and mobility necessary for everyday activities.


Once you can handle this routine, you can start with more advance foot exercises.


❇️ Big toe raise, keep other toes down. Done slowly with control.


❇️ Lift the little toes and keep big toe down.


❇️ Keep heel down and raise and spread all 5 toes for 5 seconds


We are looking for quality of movement, without cramping.







Short Foot Position


Another very important exercises to control the height of the longitudinal arch of the foot and posterior tibialis activation.


❇️ Keep heel and toes on ground, try to lift middle arch to try to make foot shorter ( aka short foot position)





Toe Spreaders



For the last couple of years I have been using these Toe spreaders to improve the alignment of the foot and to improve strength.


Narrow shoes or cleats tend to bunch all the toes together, losing the ability to spread and move freely, therefore it makes complete sense to exercise the foot wearing these spreaders with the main goal of having functional feet.


Functional means a foot where all the muscles, joints and connective tissue fire up and move effectively and without pain or stiffness helps the entire body fire up and move effectively without pain or stiffness.


There are several ways to use them, just put them on and walk barefoot at home or exercises with them on like in the video here.






Strengthen your Arches


Your medial longitudinal arch is a key component in the stability of the whole lower extremity.


It depends mainly on the strength and control of two very important muscles

⁣⁣Flexor hallucis longus⁣⁣ (FHL).


In this video today we show you a great way to strengthen the FHL.


It is very important that you keep the big toe straight as you push down, do no bend it in the middle of the toe or grip into the band to isolate the contraction and avoid compensations.






Plantar Fascia Load and Strengthening


Strengthen your Arches !!!...Plantar Fascia Load and Strengthening

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Another important component of the longitudinal arch is the Plantar Fascia which helps create stiffness in the inner part of the foot and therefore support to the arch.

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The calf , plantar fascia and the big toe work synergically to propel the body forward.

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A good exercise is the one shown in this video where the calf raise is done using this device ( you can use a towel as well ) to emphasize the position of the toe into extension and load the FHL and plantar fascia simultaneously.

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Recommended 2 sets of 5,8,10 repetitions as tolerated. You’ll feel tension , burning in the inner part of the foot into the lower leg. Once you can control the exercises with your body weight you can add a backpack with weights for further loading.







As you practice these simple exercises you will develop strength and endurance in the foot which is very important for performance .





Conclusion


  • Foot exercises are a good option for soccer players

  • Conventional exercises usually don't challenge the foot musculature and specific exercises need to be done to develop strength in this area

  • Plantar Flexion Capacity with emphasis on Great Toe strength are the main goals of the strengthening.

  • Give these exercises a try for a couple of weeks and you'll feel the difference


White Bay Sports Physical Therapy is a Sports-Injury clinic that specializes in Plantar Fasciitis treatment .

Lionel Pannunzio is a Physical Therapist Certified in Sports Injuries. With more than 20 years of experience helping athletes return to their sports after an injury. He is the Owner of White Bay Sports Physical Therapy and Fitness, conveniently located in the beautiful City of Weston, where he treats Soccer Players and Athletes of all ages



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  • Lionel Pannunzio PT / SCS

Introduction


Ankle sprains are one of the most common soccer Injury among youth and adult soccer players. In fact, researchers have estimated that ankle injuries account for 10 to 30% of all sports related injuries in young athletes and from 16 to 29% of all soccer specific injuries.

The old belief was these are benign condition that will heal without any treatment. right? well not really. Ankle sprains symptoms can linger for many months and residual instability can last for months and can set you up for a re-injury in the future if you don't treat it properly the 1st time


What is an Ankle Sprain ?





Sprains are injuries to ligaments (the bands of tissue that hold joints together). Ankle sprains occur when the foot twists or turns beyond its normal range of movement, causing the ligaments connecting the bones of the leg, ankle, and foot to overstretch or tear.

The ligaments on the outer (lateral) side of the ankle are the ones most commonly injured. Ligaments on the inner (medial) side of the ankle, or above the ankle bone, can also be sprained, but are injured less frequently.

An ankle sprain usually takes between 2 weeks to 2 months to heal. The ankle will feel better after a few weeks, and be fully strengthened in a few months. A severely sprained ligament, however, can take 9 months to 1 year to heal.

Recurrent ankle sprains are common; once an ankle ligament is sprained, it is often reinjured. In fact, 73% of people who have sprained an ankle once are likely to do so again. Reinjury is especially likely if muscle strength and balance are not fully restored to, or improved beyond, preinjury levels.



How does it feel?


Right after an ankle sprain, you may experience:

  • Pain

  • Swelling

  • Inability to stand or walk on the affected foot

  • Throbbing

  • Stiffness

  • Weakness

  • A feeling of instability in the ankle joint

After most sprains, you feel pain right away at the site of the ligament stretch or tear. Often, the ankle starts to swell immediately and may bruise. The ankle area usually is tender to the touch, and when you move the ankle, it hurts. In more severe sprains, you may hear or feel something tear, along with a "pop" or "snap."




How Is It Diagnosed?


If you see your physical therapist first, the physical therapist will examine your ankle, take your health history, and ask questions such as:

How did you get injured?, Did you feel a pop, snap, or tear?, What activities are you having trouble doing?, What activities do you want to get back to doing?


Your physical therapist will gently press around your ankle to see if it is painful to the touch, and may use additional tests to determine if other parts of your foot are injured. Your physical therapist will test your strength and flexibility, observe how you can move your foot and leg, and watch how you walk.


Depending on how badly a ligament is damaged, or how many ligaments are injured, your ankle sprain may be classified as:

Grade 1 (mild).

The ligament is overstretched.

Grade 2 (moderate).

The ligament is overstretched or partially torn.

Grade 3 (severe). The ligament is completely torn.


Your physical therapist also will test and screen for other, more serious conditions that could be causing the pain and swelling. To provide a definitive diagnosis, your physical therapist may collaborate with an orthopedic physician or other health care provider, who may order further tests, such as an x-ray, to confirm the diagnosis and to rule out other damage to the ankle, including a fracture.



How Can a Physical Therapist Help?


Physical therapists help people with ankle sprains recover more quickly than they would without treatment.

The time it takes to heal an ankle sprain varies, but results can often be achieved in 2 to 8 weeks.

Your physical therapist will work with you to design a specific treatment program that meets your needs and goals.

During the first 24 to 48 hours following your diagnosis, your physical therapist may advise you to:

  • Rest the area by avoiding any activity that causes pain.

  • Apply ice packs to the area for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 hours.

  • Consult with a physician for further services, such as medication or diagnostic tests.

  • Walk on the affected foot as soon, and as much as you are able, without making the pain or swelling worse.

  • Use crutches or other walking aids to help alleviate pain and support balance.

  • Wrap your ankle or use an ankle brace for support and to prevent swelling.

  • These self-treatments will allow you to be as active as possible with the least amount of pain, and will help speed healing.  


Your physical therapist will work with you to:


Reduce Pain and Swelling. You will learn how to avoid or modify your daily and sports activities to allow healing to begin. Your physical therapist may use different types of treatments and technologies to control and reduce your pain and swelling, including ice, heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, taping, specific exercises, and hands-on therapy, such as specialized massage.


Improve Motion. Your physical therapist will choose specific activities and treatments to help restore normal movement in the ankle. These might begin with "passive" motions that the physical therapist performs for you to gently move your ankle and foot, and progress to “active” exercises and stretches that you do yourself.


Improve Flexibility. Your physical therapist will determine if any foot, ankle, or lower leg muscles are tight, begin to stretch them, and teach you how to stretch them.


Improve Strength. Ankle sprains may be related to weak, injured, or uncoordinated leg muscles. Certain exercises will aid healing at each stage of recovery; your physical therapist will choose and teach you the correct exercises and equipment to use, to steadily and safely restore your strength. These may include using cuff weights, stretch bands, and weight-lifting equipment.


Improve Endurance. Regaining your muscular endurance in the ankle and leg is important after an injury. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises to improve endurance, so you can return to your normal activities. Cardio-exercise equipment may be used, such as treadmills or stationary bicycles.


Improve Balance. Regaining your sense of balance is important after an injury. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises to improve your balance ability.


Restore Agility. Speed and accuracy of leg movement is important in athletics and in many daily activities. Your physical therapist will help you regain these skills in preparation for a return to sports and to your daily routine.


Learn a Home Program. Your physical therapist will teach you strengthening and stretching exercises to perform at home. These exercises will be specific for your needs; if you do them as prescribed by your physical therapist, you can speed your recovery.


Return to Activities. Your physical therapist will discuss activity goals with you and use them to set your work, sport, and home-life recovery goals. Your treatment program will help you reach your goals in the safest, fastest, and most effective way possible. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises, work retraining activities, and sport-specific techniques and drills to help you achieve your goals.


Speed Recovery Time. Your physical therapist is trained and experienced in choosing the best treatments and exercises to help you safely heal, return to your normal lifestyle, and reach your goals faster than you are likely to do on your own.





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