The concept of having good foot posture is similar to having good trunk posture. You need to be able to find neutral and know how to activate the “core” stabilizers.
How do I find neutral foot?
To find neutral foot it is helpful to find the extremes of pronation and supination. Pronation is the position when the ankle and foot roll toward the inside of the foot (causing the arch to collapse); supination is the position when the ankle and foot roll toward the outside of the foot (raising the arch). It is important to know what each of the extremes look and feel like. Once you know the extremes, you want to then find a location in the middle. The central location is what can be considered the neutral position of the foot and ankle.
How do I activate the “core” stabilizers of the foot?
The “core” stabilizer of the foot can be considered the flexor hallucis brevis (FHB). This is one of many intrinsic muscles of the foot; it is a small muscle on the bottom of the foot who’s physiologic role is to flex the 1st proximal phalanx. You can differentiate this from the long flexor of the big toe (flexor hallucis longus) because the long flexor originates in the calf, crosses the ankle joint, and will cause the big toe to scrunch when activated. The FHB allows the toe to press straight down into the ground and causes the arch to raise slightly when activated. This is an important muscle to activate because it is integral to stability of the foot and balance while standing on one foot.
How does this relate to running?
When in midstance of running gait, the FHB is integral in the stance limb for stability while weight bearing and for the transferring of energy for forward progression.
How do I train the flexor hallucis brevis?
You can train this muscle by working on your foot coordination. This can be as simple as finding neutral foot posture while standing on one foot. When balancing on one foot you then focus on pressing down with the big toe (without scrunching the toe). This can be progressed by performing a number of different single leg balance activities – such as closing your eyes, turning head back and forth (with eyes open), leaning forward, squatting, etc. Another method to address foot coordination can be through toe yoga. To perform this exercise you alternate between raising all toes up (except the big toe) and then keeping all toes down but raise the big toe up.
The concept of improving foot coordination is important so that you can improve the stability of your foot. A more stable foot equates to a more stable and efficient runner.
How to practice at home:
- Finding neutral foot posture
- Single leg balance
- Single leg RDL
- Single leg RDL with twisting variations
- Integrating neutral foot into double leg functional activity
- Integrating neutral foot into single leg functional activity