There is the flashy topic of training (think abs, guts, and buts). While these are great for the attention grab, there is one area that you are probably missing. This area is a complex informational highway for your body. This area plays a role in posture, joint stability, and providing key information for your next step.
The area I am talking about is your feet. Yep. Those stinky, often funky looking, feet! While they might not be the most pleasant thing to look at, they are the gatekeeper to your sensory information with the ground.
When I look at athletic performance across a lifetime, the athletes who take care of their feet have a leg up on the competition.
The first critical point for focusing on your feet is injury prevention. Have you ever experienced pain while completing a squat, lunge, or deadlift variation? One thing I see a lot of is a collapsed arch. I am fairly flat footed, so I have to put extra emphasis on engaging my arches. It isn’t even that complex of a focus, but you will have to move with heightened attention to establish this habit at first.
When you have a collapsed arch, you are automatically going to feel more tension on the inside of your knee. Now layer this tension in with 100s of repetitions of squats, lunges, and deadlifts. This could lead to discomfort. Now layer in 100s of repetitions of walking up the stairs, sitting down in a chair, and running into the equation. This is sure to lead to some sort of pain.
Again, this isn’t a hard concept to correct. It just takes some enhanced focus moving forward. Watch the video below to pick up a few different movements you can utilize to maximize foot performance.
The next focal point is posture. We wear heavily cushioned shoes with all of this “high level” technology in them. All of the padding is dampening our ability to pick up sensory information from the ground. Even if you do not wear a cushioned shoe, your foot craves barefoot contact with the surrounding environment. This takes a toll on posture due to the lack of stimulus.
My favorite example is at the beach. This might show how much of a nerd I am, but I love sitting my beach chair right near the walkway that leads to the beach. As families start walking down the path, they ditch their shoes right before hitting the sand. It is amazing to see what happens next. As people ditch their shoes and walk on the sand, their posture almost immediately improves. This isn’t due to a fancy program that improved their posture. It is due to the removal of the barrier between their feet and the environment. More information through the foot results in better movement almost instantly.
Does this not make sense? Complete this test. Complete a single leg balance test in your most padded shoes. See how long you can balance on one foot with your eyes closed. Now take your shoe off and complete the same test barefoot. Without even being in the room, I can already see what will happen. You will feel much more in control when you’re barefoot.
Now I’m not saying ditch your shoes all day. I understand it is not socially acceptable in many circumstances. However, sprinkling in some barefoot work at home will add a new layer of injury prevention and performance to your training program.
Simple tweaks go a long way!