Your Feet Are Your Foundation To All Movements

12363_10202758898907678_7837816964141703245_nWe recently had Michael Baer from ReBound speak to our clients about the importance of the health of your feet. Your feet are the foundation to all of your movements. We stand and walk on them all day long, we run on them, jump on them, they propel us forward, and they absorb impact. During impact movements, the muscles of your feet and lower limb absorb the forces of up to three times your body weight.  So let’s say you weigh 150 pounds, that’s 450 pounds of force with each stride!  So it’s clear that the foot is important but very few people actually work on strengthening their feet and even though it’s one of the most important areas to train, it’s the most neglected!  Here’s some tips to conditioning your feet and many you can do anywhere…meaning no extra time to do them!

Exercises for your FEET:

Since most of us wear shoes all day long and many women wear shoes that keep their feet in a very tight, constricted position all day long, our feet become very rigid. But our feet are designed with multiple joints and have the ability to articulate like our hands – just look at someone who has lost the use of their hands and they quickly adapt the ability to use their feet to write, eat, and perform various other daily tasks usually done by the hands. So the message is, we need to make an effort to increase the movement and functionality of our feet.

  • Feet Movement: While you are watching TV or working at your desk, just move your feet. Separate your toes wide, flex and bend and extend your toes, point and extend your feet, rotate your ankles, tap your toes….just move your feet and get some blood flowing to the muscles, tissues and joints. Do it at least a minute at a time whenever you think about it every day.
  • Towel Crunches:  Lay a towel flat on the floor in front of you.  Place your bare feet on the towel edge closest to you and then curl your toes pulling the towel closer and closer to you.  Continue this exercise for a couple minutes. It’s an easy one to do while you’re watching TV or reading.
  • Ball Curls:  Take a small soft ball like a Hacky Sac and squeeze your toes around the ball.  Continue for 1-2 minutes.
  • Barefoot Heel Raises:  Lift your heels quickly pressing up onto your toes.  Continue for 1-2 minutes.
  • Golf Ball Releasing: When you are working at your desk or watching TV, roll your feet over a golf ball with the intent of kneading away any tight tissue. When you finns a tight area, you can hold for a few seconds until it releases and/or gently roll back and forth over the area.

Perform the above exercises at least 2-3x/week.

Here’s some other tips to strengthen your feet.

  • Barefoot Conditioning:  I remember vacationing in Fiji and walking painfully over one beach where the sand was coral based and it was so uncomfortable for my sensitive feet. Meanwhile, the local Fijians were playing soccer and running along the same beach with absolutely no discomfort. Their feet were strong and accustomed to the sharp corral. That doesn’t happen overnight but rather over years of conditioning their feet. Unfortunately, in our culture, a lot of athletes have recognized the importance of barefoot conditioning and have progressed too quickly, doing too much, too soon and have experienced negative ramifications.
    • So yes, one way to condition your feet is to be barefoot as often as you can. So walk around the house barefoot and in the summer look for opportunities to take off your shoes. Participate in activities that are conducive to bare feet like Yoga, Barre or Ballet type movements or Nia dance. I will even perform traditional strength movements like Squats, Step ups or Lunges bare foot when appropriate. Progress into minimalist, flexible shoes if appropriate for your foot anatomy – not everyone does well with a minimalist shoe.  And a very important warning…if you are going to try high impact, barefoot activities like barefoot running, progress very slowly into these activities to make sure your muscles, bones and connective tissue are strong enough for the forces. Many people have developed severe injuries when trying to progress too quickly into high impact barefoot movements
  • Wear athletic shoes that are flexible and have a wide toe box:  You should be able to bend your athletic shoes which would allow your feet to function as they were designed. Your toe box should be wide allowing your toes to spread versus get crunched.  Many professionals suggest going a half size to full size bigger than you think you wear.  I actually now take my insoles out of my shoes giving my feet more room to spread out.
  • Shop at a local specialty footwear store: I strongly suggest purchasing your athletic shoes from a local specialty shop like Fleet Feet or When the Shoe Fits to get fitted correctly and find the correct shoe for your anatomy. We spend a ton of time on our feet so let’s start taking better care of them.
  • Avoid High-heel, rigid shoes:  Try to avoid wearing any shoe that has a very high heel to toe ratio and is very rigid which can negatively affect the anatomy of the foot. Ladies, I know we like to be cute with our high heels and stilettos but it really does negatively affect our feet so try to wear these types of shoes for only special occasions (definitely not daily) and avoid walking in long distances while wearing them.

Yours in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan

Note:  As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started.  Contact 360.574.7292 for more details.

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at

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