Foot Conditions and Disorders

5 Science-Based Steps to Strong Feet & Ankles

In this video I’ll show you the 5 steps
to build foot arch & ankle stability. Let's get started. Our feet are rooted to the ground via three
points of ground contact, forming a wide triangular base. We see this most accurately in babies, who's
feet fan out at the toes. This triangular shape should persist through
to adulthood, with the tips of the toes remaining the widest part.

Instead, most adults feet are widest at the
base of the toes and then taper inwards. This can lead to problems like bunions, which
affect about one third of adults. The narrower base makes us less stable, and
also affects the stabilizing muscles inside the feet. Thats because when the bones in your feet
are aligned correctly, all of the muscles and connective tissues are tensioned evenly. But if one toe is out of alignment, it changes
the tension on that side, which can make the whole foot arch structure unstable.

This is why bunions are related to collapsed
arches- also called acquired flat-feet. So, how do people's feet lose their natural
shape? Well, it comes down to wearing shoes that
are not shaped like their feet. Shoes are tapered inwards to a point, but
our feet are supposed to fan outwards. So because we spend so much time in shoes,
our feet eventually mold to the shape of them. To fix this problem, we need to start wearing
naturally shaped shoes. That's where our sponsors – Origo Shoes – come
in. They design their shoes around the natural
shape of the feet. That means two things for our toes: they can
remain straight and they have enough room to spread or splay apart.

Let's cut open a pair to see how this works. As you can see, the regular shoe design on
the left severely restricts proper toe alignment, while Origo's on the right provide the space
for the feet to conform into that stable triangular base of support. While Origo's main drawing card is that they
are healthy for our feet, they also happen to be really good looking shoes, with that
classic sneaker design, and are made using sustainably sourced natural materials. Links to Origo shoes together with our discount
code can be found below in the description. Thanks Origo for sponsoring this video and
looking after our foot health. The next step is to exercise the 4 layers
of intrinsic foot muscles. These work together to form our lower body's
base of support, also known as our arches. Like all muscles, they can only be strengthened
through movement. For example, a bicep is strengthened through
full elbow flexion and extension in the bicep curl.

If I stop movement at the elbow joint, the
bicep muscle stops working and it can't get stronger. So we need to produce more movement through
the 33 joints in our feet in order to stimulate muscle growth and strength in them. Well, footwear that has arch support and a
thick, rigid sole does not allow your feet to move much. This type of shoe is designed to be supportive
to the muscles. This can have a negative side effect where
they will start to depend on the shoes for help. This is known as a crutch, and it's something
we want to avoid if we want strong feet and ankles.

The alternative is to wear minimalist, Barefoot
style shoes like the Origos which have a hyper flexible sole. This allows freedom of motion at all the joints
in your feet, causing the foot muscles to get a workout every time you wear them. As a result, these muscles become stronger
over time. And it has been proven in a recent study whereby
daily activity in minimal footwear increased foot strength by 57.4% in just 6 months. For me, this is an easy way to get stronger
without doing any extra work. If I just wear shoes that let my feet move
more, I will automatically get stronger. Or at the very least – take off all footwear
for some time each day. Okay, moving on to the next step which is
to try to increase our feeling with the ground. Let me explain: let's say that we are running
and we land on an uneven surface. The faster we sense the change in the ground
slope, the faster we can react by stabilizing the ankle and foot and the less chance we
have of injuring them – like in an ankle sprain.

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This is known scientifically as "time to stability." Now, the best way to improve our time to stability
is by enhancing our sense of feeling – also known as proprioception. We can only enhance our proprioception by
removing barriers which block our senses. So, if we need to feel the ground when we
move around, we should look at what separates us from the ground. And once again, we have to look at the shoes
we wear. The common training shoes, place thick slabs
of EVA foam between us and the floor. This is done in order to absorb impact forces. Thats all well and good, but it's those forces
that the body needs to feel so that it can respond appropriately to them.

Let me give you an example: Research shows
that shoe runners predominantly heel strike, while barefoot runners predominantly forefoot
strike. This change in movement pattern is caused
through feeling of the ground forces. Because, when I have cushion under my heels,
I can tolerate landing on them. But as soon as I remove the cushion and try
to land on my heels, I feel such a shock up my leg that I quickly adjust position and
run more on the balls of my feet. So my body responds to the impact and pain
by finding a more efficient way to run that has less impact on the body. And thats where barefoot shoes come in once
again. They are usually less than 1cm thick in the
soles which provide only enough protection to prevent our feet from harsh temperatures,
cuts and scrapes. They don't block our senses though, thereby
preserving our ground feel.

Barefoot shoes are a lot like surgical gloves. Doctors wear them to protect their patients
from infection while still being able to feel and do delicate operations. So, now that you have a good picture of what
they are, you can understand why barefoot shoes like the Origos don't have any fancy
features. After all, the feet are already sophisticated
enough, we only need to learn how to use them properly. Alright. Moving on to step 4 which is to improve ankle
mobility. Your ankle joint needs to be able to bend
a certain amount while moving.

When it can't do this, the body makes some
compensations by turning the foot out and letting the arch collapse through pronation. It's as if the foot arch becomes a second
ankle joint in this scenario. But as you can imagine, this can cause problems
with lower limb alignment and stability. There are two ways to fix the problem of tight
ankles. The first is to not wear shoes with a raised
heel. Raised heels shift your body forward towards
your toes and this makes your ankle muscles shorter over time. The second way to fix the problem is to actively
increase mobility at the joint. This can be done by doing exercises that target
the joint through its full range of motion. The best of these is the squat.

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Squats are one of the most basic shapes our
body can conform to. Kids play in this position all the time – like
my beautiful little daughter in this clip. If you have trouble getting into a squat because
of tight ankles, do it while holding onto a support. This will help you pull yourself down deeper,
which forces your ankles to flex fully. But, make sure to do this barefoot and be
aware of not spinning your feet out and collapsing your arches. Try to keep the feet pointed straight while
maintaining stable foot arches at all times. Spending just five minutes a day in a squat
can do absolute wonders for your ankle mobility. Give it a try for 2 weeks and then post your
progress in the comments. Okay, time for the 5th and final step: strengthening
your glutes. Now, you might be wondering why I'm mentioning
this, especially if you're looking to build foot arch and ankle stability. But the glutes are actually very important
muscles for lower limb stability. This is because their muscle fibers run in
a slight horizontal orientation.

This means that when they contract, they rotate
the lower limbs outwards. So, by activating our glutes, we can help
prevent the weak and internally collapsed foot and ankle position. To be sure you understand what I am saying,
try this yourself. With both feet pointed straight ahead, stand
totally relaxed. Then squeeze your butt. Place your fingers on the muscles to feel
them activate, then watch what happens down at your feet. You should see your foot arches lift and become
more prominent. Relax your whole body again and you'll notice
your arches drop back down.

Then squeeze your butt once more and watch
your arches change shape again. This is the beautiful downstream effect of
glute muscle activation. In order to train your glutes for better lower
limb stability, you can practice single leg balancing. A study found that people with unstable ankles
were worse at balancing on one leg than those with stable ankles. But after 4 weeks of balance training, the
difference between the two groups was no longer significant.

That's because balance training works all
the stability systems in your body, from your glutes to your toes. Unlike many other lower limb exercises, balance
training is done while standing up, which mimics many everyday activities. This makes it highly functional exercise. To start, stand on one leg without shoes and
try to balance for a minute or more. If you can do this easily, then try doing
the same thing but with motion. Press your toes into the ground and lift your
heel up. Then lower it slowly back down. Make sure that your hips stay level at all
times. If they drop down on one side, that means
you are not activating your glutes effectively. And that's it! Once you have these 5 steps down, you can
join me in our more in-depth classes at our barefoot strength academy. I've linked it below, along with everything
else mentioned in this video. But until then, cheers!.