Scenario of an elite runner

1990: Plantar fasciitis (4 months)
Prescribed orthotics.
1991: Shin splints
1993: Plantar fasciitis (16 months)
Different orthotics
1995: Severe back pain (2 months)
1996: Switched sports
[ankle sprains galore in between the years]
1999: Knee pain
2001: Running again
2001: Stress fracture
2002: Beginnings of hallux limitus
2003: Massive toe pain
Prescibed different orthotics and a rigid foot pad.
2006: I have had enough!
I made the executive decision to start to mobilize and stabilize my feet.
It took me TWO years to have the strength and flexibility to do whatever it is I wanted with my feet. TWO YEARS. Two years to be able to walk barefoot without pain. And yes, it was worth every single solitary second. You know why??? Because EVERY single injury/pain that I had previously what DIRECTLY related to my feet. I know a LOT about the feet and how they can transform your entire body!!!!! I am not saying you have to get rid of your orthotics. I am saying you need to take care of your feet to take care of your ankles, knees, hips, low back and everything really.
You might say to yourself, I have nothing wrong with my feet why should I go. Trust me, your feet aren’t perfect because you are actually reading this post. AND the last place on your body you want to hurt is your feet. They affect every single cell uptown… meaning your entire body! OMGoodness you might say. Yes, it is OMGoodness.

Unduck Your FEET

Most people duck their feet.

Why? Because a huge part of the population sits, exercises, moves and/or holds themselves in positions that externally rotate their lower leg bones (tibia and fibula). Yes, bones move just like every other living thing in the body. And wearing shoes! Well, people rigidify the mucles/connective tissue, joints, ligaments (anything LIVING) within the foot. The inability for people to use their feet properly is exactly the reason why many of them have foot/ankle/hip/muscle tears/knee/back problems in the first place.

How often do you duck your feet? For me personally, I am much better than I was before… but I notice it when I do a full squat (my feet creep out), when I am tired, when I sit down in a horrible posture and don’t pay attention to any of my body, when my legs are up in the air (while I’m lying on the ground). How about you?

I’m talking about the feet; at the same time, it can be mentioned about any part of the body… We develop as humans exactly how we carry ourselves and move ourselves. People complain about certain parts of the body as they age and blame it directly on age… however, it has nothing to do with age. Your body adapts perfectly to the exact body you ask it to be.

Today, take note of how you “use” your body throughout the day. It’s not easy. How about- how do you eat? How do you drive? How do you walk? How do you talk on the phone? Think about some easy things… and see if you might want to “modify” your use of the body. You only have it once 🙂

Your sport movements mimic your daily life movements

If you want to be able to squat, you actually need to squat on a daily basis outside your sport. You can do this by going to the toilet properly (in a squat), hanging out eating a meal, squatting talking on the phone or watching television. The thought of doing “mobility” for hours on end to get into the appropriate squatting position is incredibly time consuming and almost a waste of time because your body doesn’t adapt as well to that position if you are only holding it for your sport.

If you want better ankle mobility start walking up hills in your neighbourhood or anywhere to improve daily mobility! You actually need to “do” the appropriate movements outside of practice and competition so it’s EASY inside training and competing. If there are no hills, crawl your way or lunge your way to success…. or hang out more in a squat.

If you want to improve your overhead squat/snatch/jerk (etcetera) you need to get into that position more often. Have a bar in one of your doorways at home so you can hang upon waking in the morning and just before going to bed. And then… try doing it without thrusting your ribs. That might take a few years!

Here’s the point I am trying to make: there’s so much talk on mobilizing for your sport you forget how much easier it would be if you actually did it outside of your sport.

Everytime you think of a certain position, exercise, activity that needs to be done within your sport, say to yourself: “How can I mimic this in my everyday life?” Your sport and body will love you for it.

Movement is behaviour over time.

Did you get that?

Movement is behaviour over time.

Stop the Spatting

A HIGH percentage of football players get ankle spatting [taping] treatment before going onto the field for a game and even for practice. Spatting is where an athletic trainer or physical therapist/physiotherapist wrap the shoe to the players ankle and possibly higher up the leg depending on the players request [please see picture below]. Spatting is a “normal” practice in football and is deemed in a positive light.

ankle spatting

Some quotes from players on why they get the treatment: “It’s for the look”, “Team unity”, “I get my shoes pulled off when I get tackled, it’s less time on the sidelines trying to get my shoes back on”, “It’s for my weak ankles”, “Comfort”, “Protection”, “Injury prevention”, etc.

Unfortunately, there is nothing healthy or protective about this practice. Aesthetics (colour coordination with the tape and team uniform) is a moot point when injuries are constantly occurring.

The ankle is a hinge joint. It can plantarflex (muscles used: gastrocnemius, soleus, plantaris and posterior tibialis) and dorsiflex (muscles used: tibialis anterior, extensor hallucis longus and extensor digitorum longus). When an athlete restricts his ability to plantarflex and dorsiflex within the ankle he is reducing his own range of motion causing a habitual shortened muscular movement pattern over time [each year it just gets worse! It has NOTHING to do with age]. A shortened muscle is a tight muscle and a tight muscle is a weak muscle. A weak muscle can only take so much before it gets injured or areas around it get the brunt of the weakness.

Spatting is like wearing a corset! The more the player gets the treatment the weaker his muscles around the ankle get, the less circulation he has, with decreased electrical flow and slowly reducing his ability for the lymphatic system to flush out the garbage his body produces from the feet up. It’s shocking! And players wonder why they can’t hang out in a squat! …. or they don’t even bother because let’s be honest…. I have never seen a football practice where players are hanging out in a squat.

Anytime you brace a particular part of the body compensation ensues, AUTOMATICALLY. In regards to the ankle joint, a limited range of motion will impact foot, ankle, and leg movement, as well as knee torque and hip function. This means a higher risk of injury to all those areas. Period. Time will only tell when he will get an injury or another one. It has nothing to do with previous injuries.

Have you looked at the stats for the NFL injury list this year 2015? Over 85% of injuries (NOT including blunt hits to the body) occur at the feet, ankle, knees, legs (upper and lower muscle strains/pulls), and hips/groin. If you don’t see the correlation between ankle/foot mobility and the injury list there in lies the problem.

Every single muscle in the body is important. Stop the spatting. Increase ankle stability and mobility. Always working from the feet up, the foundation upon which we are built, will help prevent injuries and maintain an athlete’s health.