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  • Writer's pictureShyla Mesch

The Complexity of the Foot & Ankle (Keep them Mobile & Strong)

Our ankles and feet are complex mechanisms that help to push us in the direction we want to go. There are a lot of small muscles in the foot that help to stabilize the ankle and lower leg all the up to the knee. Weakness or dysfunction of any of these muscles can cause pain and can affect how we walk, run or even stand. Today, we'll talk about the importance of our arch and the muscles that help with our foot and ankle movements... AND of course how to improve your push off or toe off to develop power in your walk or run. Let's start with some basic anatomy! Since the foot is such a complex structure we will only go over the basics to help you reach your goals. This is why there is an entire physician specialty (podiatrist) dedicated to just the foot! We have 3 basic components that really make up the arch of the foot. Our arch is made of a complex structural build of:

  1. Bones

  2. Ligaments

  3. Muscles

This site has a great breakdown of the anatomy of the foot is you'd like to learn more about it!

Our tibialis posterior and flexor hallucis longus are the main muscles we'll focus on to improve our arch overall but we will also focus on something called "foot posture." This is the ability to maintain a good arch level during standing. Our foot has a ton of small little muscles that make up the "core" of our foot to improve our overall stability from the bottom up!

[picture credit:] Pictured above is the anatomy of the Tibialis posterior and Flexor hallucis longus.

There are several ligaments (structures that connect bone to bone and do not have a muscular component to them) that also help to keep the arch stabile and structurally sound while the muscles can have a huge effect on our movements and provide plenty of outward support to the ankles.

This link is to a study showing some controversial evidence in the study that shows that there are mixed results for improving "foot posture" but it does also note that:

"Daily practice of the SFE[Short Foot Exercise] seems to improve the stability and the capability of absorbing shock and, thereby, optimizes the biomechanics of the lower limb "

Short foot exercises help to improve foot posture and to provides better "Position, stability, and biomechanics of the foot". This is specifically true in a rehabilitation or injury prevention setting. Short foot exercises include: picking up marbles with your toes, toe curling with a towel and isometric arch raises.

Think of this as strengthening the "core" of your foot. As you improve your foot's core, you'll be able to do do a few cool things with your foot and toes.

This video provides a good explanation for raising your arch.

Take a look at this video where we go into more depth about arch raises and how to strengthen your feet! Skip to 3:37 for toe strengthening and 5:45 for arch raises and strengthening.

Keep those toes strong and lift those arches regularly!

A great product to have in your life... toes spreaders or stretchers! These Naboso Splay are what I use, but there are a ton of different products out there!

The modern world demands that we go through the world in mostly close-toed shoes. While these protect our feet, they also inhibit their natural range of motion - particularly our toes. Over time this can lead to discomfort, blisters and even injuries if not addressed in time.

Giving your feet time to be free and adding a little static stretch time while you cook dinner or watch your fav show can really change the way your feet work and give you access to a few muscles that have maybe gone to sleep.

(I have no affiliation here...just sharing something I love)!

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