Take Care of Your Feet!
If you are a runner and you are serious about avoiding injury, then there 3 things you need to be sure to do for sure!
– Look after your Feet
– Look after your Hips
– Manage your training load
Of course, there are many other things that will help avoid injury but these 3 areas sure are important.
Over the next few updates I will break each of these elements down with a few pointers to get your heading in the right direction to bullet proof your body!
Starting with the Feet…
On average, the each foot strikes the ground between 80-100 times per minute when running. With each strike equal to approx. 3 times the person’s bodyweight.
The feet are responsible for absorbing that impact and transmitting the forces up through the body efficiently & effectively.
The better shape the feet are in, the better they are at dealing with these forces without a) becoming injured and b) placing more strain upon joints further along the chain (i.e. knee, hip) due to their inability to move well and absorb.
…So let’s look at what we can do to prime our feet.
Running is very repetitive, with the feet pounding the pavement in the same movement pattern for a long time. Coupled with the fact the majority of recreational runners may also spend 5 days a week confined to restrictive work shoes, spending some time each week to keep the feet mobile and free will be extremely beneficial.
Here of some example of things that you can try:
Hockey Ball Roll
Fingers between Toes
Just as we like to stretch and move all other areas of our body, our feet and toes are no different. There are many small but very important muscles in the foot that can benefit greatly from a couple of minutes of separating the toes and rotating in small circular motions.
Knee to wall
This can be used as an assessment to compare range of movement of the ankle. It can also be used simply as a way of working through a full range of movement of the ankle by spending a minute or two slowly moving in and out of that end range position.
Massage / Joint Mobilisations
Your feet carry you through all of those long miles, so it makes sense to treat them to regular treatment in order to keep them working optimally for you. Massage is a great way to ease off sensitivity in the area. The major joints of the feet will benefit from mobilisations to ensure free movement to allow the them to efficiently absorb the forces placed upon them.
An inadequate range of movement around the foot/ankle can cause a number of issues with running. If there is not enough free movement for the forces of impact to be dealt with at the ankle, then these forces will travel upwards and end up being placed upon the knee and hip. Over time this kind of faulty loading pattern can contribute to the onset of pain.
Below are some suggestions of stretches that can be used to ensure full movement of the foot & ankle: –
Leaning against a wall, straighten the back leg and drive your heel into the ground.
Leaning against the wall, bring the back foot in slightly and sit back towards the heel. This will put a good stretch on the soleus.
Wearing running shoes, bring your front foot towards the wall and places the toes up against it. Bend the knee towards the wall, this will produce a stretch that puts emphasis on the achilles tendon.
Without shoes on, place your toes up against the wall and bend your knee into the wall. Stretching in this manor will hit the achilles but also targets the plantar fascia of the sole of the foot.
We keep our feet locked up and restricted in shoes for very long periods of time. This can have a compressive effect on our feet – if you compare an average adults foot to that of a baby, you will see the difference between the foot as nature created, and the foot that has spent 30 years in narrow shoes! Try wearing toe separators in the evening to stretch the intrinsic muscles of the foot and regain your natural foot position.
This is the biggie! Running places great load through the feet. The most effective way to manage this is to ensure that the relevant tissues are strong enough to tolerate these loads. There is an old myth that strength training for running should be light weight and high repetitions. This is in fact not true. Muscle endurance for running is built by running itself. The supplementary strength training must be designed to increase total strength capacity. The more we can lift, the better. Of course, it must be progressive, and we should build up the load gradually in order to not overload our body and cause injury.
Below are some introductory exercises for the feet/ankle. All of which can be loaded more either by performing whilst holding weights, or using heavier bands.
Calf Raises Straight/Bent Knee
These exercises through the calf, ankle and foot. The Straight leg variation will target the gastrocnemius, while the bent leg version targets the soleus. Progression of this exercise would see you perform single leg raises / load the exercise by holding weights whilst performing.
Resistance Band Eversion/Inversion/Dorsiflexion
You can really start to strengthen and stabilise the foot and ankle by incorporating resistance band exercises that load through the ranges of movement that the ankle produces. This is a great way to increase your body’s tolerance of the demands of running.
Tip Toe Walks / Heel Walks
Great exercises to build up endurance in the lower leg/foot. They are good drills to use to build up movement patterns/strength for good running technique.
Pogo jumps are a great way of starting to utilise plyometric drills in your training. These jumps will help develop the elastic strength in the achilles that is so important to run well. Focus is on pulling the toes tight towards the knee when jumping and actively planting on the landing.
This exercise is another way to utilise plyometric training. It also develops the stability of the ankle and it’s ability to deal with the forces acting on it when running. Two areas are created alongside each other and the drill is to hop from one side to the other repeatedly. Focus is on ensuring that the landing is strong and controlled.
This is by no means a complete nor exhaustive guide, just a few ideas of ways you can look to optimise the health of your feet. If you can incorporate even just a couple of drills from each section you will be positively impacting on the capacity of your feet to tolerate the demands of your running training.
Please feel free to get in touch to discuss any methods of improving your running performance further!
I have a 12 week running performance package that utilises strength training to improve your running – email me if you would like details.