Physical Therapy in Hampton Roads
Main Navigation

Develop Strong “Foot Core” to Prevent Overuse Injuries

Bon Secours In Motion Physical Therapy, foot and ankle injury rehabilitation, balance and fall prevention, sports injury rehab, sports performance specialists, physical therapist clinic, Hampton RoadsBefore you reach for a cozy pair of slippers to keep your feet warm this fall, you may want to try going barefoot around the house to strengthen what some call the “foot core.”

Not only can barefoot activities improve a person’s balance and posture, but they can also help prevent shin splits, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, bursitis and tendonitis in the Achilles tendon, according to a news release from Ithaca College.

Patrick McKeon, a professor who works in the college’s School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, says people often overlook the muscles in their feet, which play a vital role in movement and stability. Like the core muscles in the abdomen, the “foot core” plays a similar role.

Pilates, yoga and martial arts classes can help strengthen the small muscles of the foot because participants do them barefoot. Anything that has to deal with changing postures and using the forces that derive from the interaction with the body and the ground can help develop foot care strength, McKeon said.

The easiest strategy may be to go barefoot around the house.

“The more people can go barefoot, such as at home or at the office, is a really good thing,” McKeon said.

When people go barefoot, there’s a feedback cycle between the larger “extrinsic” muscles of the foot and leg, the smaller “intrinsic” muscles of the foot and the neural connections that send information from those muscle sets to the brain.

“Those interactions become a powerful tool for us,” he said.

But when that feedback loop is broken – which happens out of the necessity to wear shoes – it can lead to overuse injuries, such as stress fractures.

“Without the nuanced information provided by the small muscles of the foot, the larger muscles over-compensate and over-exert past the point of exhaustion and the natural ability to repair,” the news release states. “When the extrinsic muscles are no longer able to absorb the forces of activity, those forces are instead transferred to the bones, tendons, and ligaments, which leads to overuse injuries.”

Aside from going barefoot, McKeon suggests people perform what’s called the short-foot exercise, which targets the small muscles by squeezing the ball of the foot back toward the heel. A subtle motion that should not involve curling the toes, the exercise can help people who have shin splits, plantar fasciitis and ankle sprain, McKeon said.

It’s also helpful, he added, to work with an athletic trainer or physical therapist to learn how to do the exercise correctly.

Source: Ithaca College news release

+ Learn about the foot and ankle physical therapy program at Bon Secours In Motion. Our physical therapists develop a customized treatment program for each patient based on a comprehensive evaluation. We help clients restore motion and strength, improve balance, decrease pain and soft tissue restriction, improve ambulation and prevent re-injury to their foot or ankle.