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Why Strong Feet Save Your Knees

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Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Creator DVRT Restoration Certification, Knees Over Toes Course, DVRT Rx Shoulder, Knees, Pelvic Control, Gait Courses, & Better Backs, Knees, & Shoulders Programs)

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Trying to convince you that strong feet are important isn’t probably that difficult for most. Whether it was the barefoot revolution, or our general awareness that we have been doing our feet a disservice in large with big bulky shoes, I think people generally are aware of the fact we need strong feet.

However, what most people do NOT realize is that strong feet are also our best protection for our knees. It is actually very simple, just like a building can’t be strong with a faulty foundation, neither can our body. In fact, when our feet don’t stabilize correctly during our movement we have a chain reaction that occurs up the body and you can imagine it isn’t long till it reaches our knees. Issues with our feet is actually a big risk factor in having knee problems.

strong feet

In fact, so many issues that social media coaches like to point to (tibial rotation, head of the femur, even hip mobility) are directly related to what our feet do during movement. I know, I know, there are a million videos on the internet of HOW you should train your feet and to be honest, a lot of it is context specific. There is nothing wrong with movements like towel crunches, but the truth is most people don’t need to spend their time training their feet THIS specifically.

The truth is that we need to teach the feet to work correctly, but for most people that means doing so in a more integrated fashion. That goes too for all this wedging of the feet, that is all artificial stability, we need to teach the feet to work on their own and you can see some examples below.

Yes, I realize you may wedge your feet differently, but the point still stands. You need to learn to use your feet without the support of an external environment.

This also goes for drills like you see me demonstrate below where the foot is partially off a support. Yes, this is working someone’s foot, but for one, our feet don’t usually work the rest of the body in this manner in everyday movement. Second and maybe most important, this can easily exceed one’s foot tolerance and capacity and create major issues in the feet like creating or making plantar fasciitis work. Doing such drills would be like never squatting and then doing a 500 pound squat, it would be probably too much for most right?

I’ll be honest, I don’t know why when it comes building strong feet we don’t follow the same progressive overload principles we would for any movement or muscle. Most people error on the side of drills way too intense or don’t actually build foot stability very well at all. What are some better options? While I am not a huge fan of unstable surface training for building great strength, if our focus is the foot and ankle, it can be very helpful. We can also use strategies like going in an inline position and using bands like you see below…

There is a famous philosophy concept known as Occam’s razor. In simplest terms, this idea refers to the simplest explanation is preferable to one that is more complex. When it comes to the body and building strong feet, this idea holds true as well. You don’t need to go to crazy exercises or put the body through extreme punishment to make significant progress. In fact, we just need to think about how to teach, rather than abuse, the body to work smarter. When we do so we can make some pretty amazing progress both in our training and the way we feel.

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