Lionel Pannunzio PT / SCS
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.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic muscles of the Foot
There are two types of muscles that influence the strength in the foot:
Extrinsic muscles which are located in the lower leg and calf area and their tendons finish in the foot
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
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)
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
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.
The calf , plantar fascia and the big toe work synergically to propel the body forward.
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.
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 .
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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