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21 Day Foot Function Transformation

February 19, 2018


If you've ever broken a bone and had to wear a cast you may have noticed how much smaller and weaker that limb was in comparison to the other side when the cast came off. The lack of movement created a disproportionate weakness and atrophy on that side. Your $100 shoes are like putting a cast on your feet every day. Your foot is your relationship with the ground and is the connection point in which force is distributed into the body. Is it coincidence that a majority of athletes I see with ankle, knee, or hip issues also have poor foot function? Some of my older clients can't even walk barefoot. They immediately get cramps, pain, or are over sensitive to the different textures of the ground and have to start in non weight bearing drills. Growing up on an acreage the first 12 years of my life has given me great foot function that I've maintained as an adult. I used to spend hours walking through mud, running across our gravel driveway, and digging my feet in the rock beds down by the creek. Now you may not be able to move to rural Iowa so I created a 21 day program to get you on the path to improving your foot function.

 

Before You Start

First lets get them feet naked! Take off those foot coffins and begin to walk around barefoot. I recommend starting a no socks and shoes rule in your house. If your find this to be too much then then take of your shoes and socks off for 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes at night, and anytime you are not on your feet. When I first started doing this I had my wife and friends start walking in zero drop minimus shoes and I wrecked their feet! There is a period of adaptation so ease into it if you haven’t spent much time barefoot.

 

 

Day 1-7 Program

The goal for your first 7 days is to get your feet used different surfaces so you can refine your "foot palate" and increase the dexterity that your toes have. The muscles in your feet succumb to the environment you put them in so we are creating a stimulating rich environment. 

 

Drills

Foot Stimulation

1 and 4 | 4 and 1 Drill 

Toe Dexterity Drill 

 

Sets/Reps: Set a timer for 2 minutes for each drill 

 

Foot Stimulation 

 Walk on PVC Pipe from end to end. Be sure not to press on your heel so you don't irritate your fat pad

 

Vigorously roll out the arch of your foot 
 
 
1 and 4 | 4 and 1 Drill 

 This drill is to establish big toe independence

 

Big toe independence is a key link in foot strength

 

 

Toe Dexterity Drill 

 Make a fist with your feet

 Spread your toes

 Squeeze your toes together

 

 

 

Day 8-14

The goal for your 2nd week is to increase the flexibility and strength in your dorsiflexors (pulling your foot back as if you were wearing a boot). Many people with limited foot function also have weak, unstable ankles. I want to make sure you are able to get your ankle into a compact position.

 
Drills
Downward Dog Variations 
PNF Ankle In DorsiFlexion
Chair Pose
 
Sets/Reps: Accumulate 2 minutes in each position. Make sure you are maintaining quality if you do longer holds. 
 
 Downward Facing Dog is a multi-segment movement and I hesitated adding it in but it has been a movement that has always been in the equation of my ankle flexibility so I had to add it in. Again the focus in the ankle so for the sake of this article you can be less specific on the alignment of the thoracic spine and shoulders. Alternate pressing one heel down and then the other. 
 
Bending the knees will decrease tension from the calf muscles (gastrocnemius) and allow more range of motion in the ankle. 
 
 

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Ankle In Dorsiflexion

 Lean your weight over your knee, press your knee back into your chest and press your fooy into the floor, relax, then go deeper into the stretch
 
(PNF) Ankle In Dorsiflexion Variation
 The previous drill requires more advanced flexibility. In this variation the technique is the same but done from standing. 
 
 
Chair Pose
 At the end of this program my hope is that your new found foot function will translate into your sport or lifestyle. Balance is a key component to many sports. In this drill you will squeeze your knees and big toes together, sit back into a chair, counterbalance with your arms and lift your toes to increase difficulty. it can be argued that there are more specific drills to achieve balance and dorsiflexion strength but this is a great progression. Most people who have a hard time going ass to grass in a squat can get into position but fall back. This is in partially due to weak dorsiflexors.. 
 

Day 15-21

We have more dexterity in our feet, we've worked on dorsiflexion, and had our introduction into balancing. Week 3 we are putting it all together and adding some banded options. 

 

Drills

Press Through Band

Pick Up Band 

Balance With Resistance

 

Sets/Reps: Press Through Band- 2 minutes |  Pick Up Band- 2 minutes | Balance With Band- 10 to 15 sec hold, switch sides, repeat 6X per side. 

 

 

 

 Press Through Band

 

 

You will start in dorsiflexion and press through your midfoot, balls of your foot, then toes. Reverse in the opposite direction on the way up moving in a snake like manner. 

 

Pick Up Band

 This will challenge your foot dexterity as well as your hip flexion and external rotation. It's also great for balancing. Repeat on both sides trying not to bend through your spine for more difficulty. 

 

 In the posterior variation you will pick up the band and land it in your opposite hand. This will also challenge your hamstrings the slower you move

 

Balance With Resistance

 Try and drive your knee above 90 degrees, keep a stiff core, and hold for 5 seconds to start then advance up to 15 seconds per side. Be sure to keep your spine from bending forward. 

 

After Your 21 Days

21 days is a very short period of time so feel free to stretch the time frame out or even master the first drills before moving on. I created sets and reps to accommodate the A type personality athlete but honestly I don't follow a strict rep scheme. I do these in the morning, at night, and when I have breaks in the day.  My rule is to do them until I feel my threshold of fatigue or if  quality breaks down. 

 

You may have noticed that the program progressed to incorporate more than just foot function. Isolation training is essential to have specific improvements but the work needs to evolve to improve the body upstream. 

 

 

 

 

 

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