by Dr. Emily Splichal, DPM MS
Hidden within our socks and shoes is a powerful structure that can transform how you connect to your posture and movement. The human foot is a fascinatingly complex structure made up of 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments.
With our feet acting as our body’s foundation, it is important to make sure we are keeping them strong and engaged. Now before you start doing your toe crunches, it is important to first understand how our feet functionally connect to the rest of our body’s strength.
Gone are the days of thinking of muscles in isolation. The current school of thought is that our body is an integrated structure where muscles contract together and form a web of fascia and muscles.
Fascially, our feet are connected to our center of gravity or deep core muscles, which means that from a stabilization perspective, strong feet means a strong core, and vice versa.
This foot to core integration needs to be factored in when building a foot strengthening program. Below is an easy three step way to build a strong foundation which is connected to your body’s center or core.
This is referred to as foot to core sequencing.
Step 1 – Core Activation
Before we can connect our core to our feet, we need to first make sure our deep core muscles are activated or engaged. To perform a deep core activation, start by standing with the feet shoulder width apart and ribcage and pelvis stacked.
Starting with the anterior (front) of the pelvic floor, imagine stopping the flow or urine by lifting the pelvic floor. Hold for 2 seconds. Relax and repeat.
Next, focus on the posterior (back) of the pelvic floor, imagine stopping your poo by lifting the pelvic floor. Hold for 2 seconds. Relax and repeat.
Now combine both the anterior and posterior techniques, holding each for a moment then relaxing.
The video below reviews the full execution of this deep core activation.
Step 2 – Foot Awareness
After connecting to the deep core muscles, it is now time to make sure that our feet are also activated. This foot activation exercise is called short foot.
Start to standing with one leg in front of the other in a split stance position. Focusing on the front foot, start by finding your foot tripod which is under the 1st and 5th metatarsal heads and heel. Lift the toes, spread them out wide and place them back down onto the ground.
While exhaling, start to push the tips of the toes down into the ground. You may see or feel the arch start to lift. Hold for 3 seconds and repeat 2x before switching to the other leg.
The video below reviews the full execution of this foot activation exercise.
Step 3 – Foot to Core Sequencing
Now that both the deep core and feet have been activated, it is now time to get them connected to each other. Start in the same position as the foot awareness exercise.
While exhaling, start to draw 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock using the tension of the deep core. Hold the tension of the core, then start to push the toes down into the ground. Hold both foot and core tension for 3 seconds before relaxing and inhaling.
Repeat on the exhale, starting with the core tension and followed by the foot tension. After a few repetitions, try to engage the foot while engaging the core tension. As you get used to the movement you want to coordinate the exhalation with the core and foot engagements so that they all occur at the same time.
The video below reviews the full execution of this foot to core activation exercise.
The final step in the foot to core activation exercise is to integrate it into your daily routine and workout regimen. This foot to core activation is a great way to wake up the body before a workout, when getting ready in the morning or as a way to reset your posture when standing long hours.