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The Under-appreciated Feet – Part Two: Strengthening

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In a previous article we touched on the role flexibility played on the feet and its function. This article will focus on the other half of proper foot care: strength and stability, the need for foot strength, a concept called the foot tripod to explain the stability the foot should possess, injuries that occur from improper foot care, and a few strengthening exercises.

The Purpose of Foot Strength

As previously discussed, the feet support the body weight and propel the body in motion. The muscles of the foot aid the skeletal structure by acting as a buffer for the kinetic forces from movement and aid in the redistribution of that force. While in motion, the body weight shifts from one foot to the other:, the feet must be capable of adjusting to the change in weight distribution to maintain a neutral balance for the rest of the body. During physical activities that propel the body into greater force, the feet are subject to random load fluctuations, especially on uneven or solid surfaces, so theythe feet must be strong enough to support the body as well as adapt movement to compensate for the surface. Runners, for example, land one foot at a time, which could double or triple the body weight to that foot. The muscles must be capable of handling the increased load through force redistribution, without sacrificing the structure, and generate power for push- off to continue momentum.

The Foot Tripod

The foot tripod is of a concept used to explain to individual’s how weight should evenly distribute throughout the foot. The points are:

  1. The center of the calcaneus (the heel)

  2. The head of the 5th metatarsal (the base of the pinky toe)

  3. The head of the 1st metatarsal (the ball of the foot)

The combination of points creates foot stability while still maintaining the ability to move. The stronger the tripod, the greater the stability will be, if the tripod maintains its mobility. This increase in stability also aids in the prevention of unintentional over pronation (foot rotates outward rotation of the ankle or heel) or over supination (foot rotates inward rotation of the ankle or heel), a problem that affects runners, dancers, lower body driven sports, or sports that involve jumping, lifting, or pivoting.



The demand on the feet are high and to improperly care for them may lead to instabilities that may travel up the leg, which require compensation of other muscles that are not equipped to provide extended function in such a capacity. Having weak feet will lead to injuries such as inflammation, bunions, neuromas, repetitive strains, chronic plantar heel pain, or stress fractures in the feet or shin. Other weaknesses in the tripod may also lead to flat feet or fallen arches, heel pain, plantar fasciitis, etc.

Strengthening the Feet

Below are only a few strengthening exercises that will can help maintain optimal foot performance.

Toe Splay

  • Sit in a straight-backed chair with the feet gently resting on the floor.

  • Spread the toes apart as far as possible without straining. Hold the position for 5 seconds.

  • Repeat this motion 10 times. Please note that some may find this exercise difficult to accomplish, but with practice, newly created neural pathways to the brain will make the task easier.

  • Once some strength has been built up, try looping a rubber band around the toes.

Toe Lifts

  • Splay your toes and feet out on the floor.

  • While keeping toes two to five down, pick up your big toe. Hold for two seconds while keeping the small toes relaxed.

  • Repeat 20 times then switch and keep your big toe down and raise toes two to five. When lifting the small toes be sure not to pronate the foot. Hold for two seconds. Repeat 20 times.

Toe Curls

  • Sit up straight in a chair, with the feet flat on the floor.

  • Lay a small towel on the floor in front of oneself, with the short side facing the feet.

  • Place the toes of one foot on the short side of the towel. Try to grasp the towel between the toes and pull it toward oneself. Repeat the exercise five times, before switching to the other foot.

  • To make this exercise more challenging, weigh down the opposite end of the towel with an object.

Trigger Point Release


  • Using a ball or other trigger point tool to release fascial tissue, place the ball right below the base of the toes.

  • Drive your weight into the ball.

  • Curl your toes to grip the ball then extend the toes, going through the full range of motion. Repeat 10 times.


  • Reposition the ball underneath the ball of the foot. Apply your weight to the ball.

  • Curl your foot around the ball by flexing your toes toward the floor, then extending and straightening your foot, going through the full range of motion. Repeat 10 times.


  • Reposition the ball just in front of the heel at the base of your foot’s arch. Apply your weight to the ball.

  • Plantar flex the foot while maintaining contact with the ball, then lower the heel and drive your weight back into the ball. Repeat 10 times.

Dorsiflexion Utilizing a Resistance Band

  • Loop an exercise band around the leg of a heavy piece of furniture, such as a table or desk.

  • Sitting directly in front of it, slip your foot into the loop so the exercise band curls around your forefoot, just below your toes.

  • Pull back with your forefoot, flexing at the ankle. Hold for several seconds, then relax. Additionally, you should feel a stretch along the back of your heel. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

*All strength exercises should be performed to a tolerable level. Do not push these muscles if they are not capable of performing the exercise. All movements should be controlled and performed slowly to increase strength and endurance.*

Foot strength is a main component to coordination in performance of sports and cannot be accomplished without proper care. Utilizing a regular routine of mobility and stability training, accompanied with sports massage to the feet and surrounding musculature, will increase recovery time, optimize sports performance and durability of the feet.

Image references


This article/video is for educational purposes only; do not attempt without your physician’s clearance. If you are in pain or injured, see your physician.
Copyright © Vidal Sports LLC 2020

Copyright © Vidal Sports LLC 2020

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