Feel the (Foot) Burn

Strength exercises are important to a long distance runner, especially if you are trying to get faster. This is not a secret. When you name your target areas, you often think of the back, core, shoulders, chest, legs... but don’t forget your feet! It may seem silly at first but for runners, actual intrinsic foot strength is VERY important. It is your sole contact point (pun intended), so don’t you want strengthen your attack point?

A study out of Japan recently looked at the change in feet after running a long distance. The researchers looked at the right foot of 21 runners and compared a variety of measurements pre- run to post run of 35 km (about 21 miles). They found a significant decrease in the arch height, deformity of the lateral side of the foot, decreased height of the mid foot and increased angle of the first toe.

There are two major talking points of this article: 1. While running, your foot position moves within the shoe as you are running. 2. Like most parts of your body, the foot requires strength to maintain a proper position.

When you first tie your shoes, you are positioning your foot for what is comfortable at that moment. Since your foot moves in your shoe, the way you tied it at first may not be the must supportive or most comfortable. On an easy run, pay attention to how your foot feels half way in. Stop and re-tie your shoe. You may find a more comfortable position for your foot.

Your foot should not just be along for the ride in your shoe, it should be an active participant. There is a serious benefit in taking your shoes off and working on your foot strength. Can you lift your big toe while keeping your other toes down? How about moving your mid foot from side to side without moving your heal? Incorporating barefoot activities to your exercise routine can greatly improve your foot strength.


Kathleen Leninger, DPT