Have you thought lately about the sole of your foot? That lil' sucker supports your whole badass fit bod day after day. And if that wasn't enough, we throw a whole bunch of weight on top of it and ask it to perform at top speeds. For example when you run a 400m with your beloved wall ball (unless you're me and you leave it under the steps when running out the gym), or when you rob a bank and have to flee at rapid speeds, dodging cop cars, while carrying billions of dollars in canvas bags (I assure you it takes the notion of functional fitness to a whole other level, those bags ain't light). Back to the point, our feet support us through thick and thin and this week we will be offering up a little extra TLC to those soulful soles. First, a wee bit of anatomy as always. Yes, I'm determined to make y'all nerds.
THE DEPTHS OF THE SOLE
There is a lot going on in this picture, and granted there is a ton going on in your foot, but let us just focus on the Intrinsic Muscles and the Plantar Fascia for this week's discussion and mobility work.
The plantar fascia is the connective tissue that runs along the sole of your foot (the plantar side) and supports your arch. It runs from each toe to the heel of your foot. The plantar fascia's main purpose is to support your arch by acting as a tie-rod, where it takes on tension as the foot bears weight. Fascia, just like muscles and joints, need to be supple and mobile in order to keep up with our demanding interests. Without getting too anatomically focused here, you also have 10 intrinsic muscles in your foot and they are responsible for stabilizing your arch and moving your toes. So lets get to mobilizing these bad boys!
THE TOE BREAKER
This is one of my all-time favs but you need to be respectful of your feet and ease into it because as the name might suggest, it may feel like your toes are breaking off. So, come down onto all fours and tuck your toes under. From here start to ease back towards your heels, slowly increasing weight onto your feet. For some of us that might not be far. Eventually though you are trying to sit on your heels (while breathing!). I prefer to keep this one dynamic by rocking the weight onto my feet, then backing off a little, then maybe pushing a little further, and so forth. Do your best to keep your feet straight, don't let your heels start to turn out (most likely) or turn in.
POINTED FOOT STRETCH
This is the counterpart to the toe breaker. Come onto all fours. This time keep the tops of the feet on the floor. From here start to shift your weight back again in an attempt to sit on your heels. Here's where it gets easy to cheat. The goal is to keep your ankles parallel and shooting straight back. Don't let your ankles roll out to the side so that your big toes are closer together than your ankle bones. This one is way harder for me so I have modified it by doing only one foot at a time. I find I get more control over my ankle alignment this way. To do one foot at a time just step the non-stretching foot forward slightly so it is in line with your bent knee and use that leg as leverage to rock back and forth.
LAX/GOLF BALL SMASHING
You can use a lacrosse ball or golf ball to massage out the plantar fascia and intrinsic muscles you just stretched, sweet! I prefer to stand because you have more leverage but this can also be done sitting at your desk. Put the ball under your foot starting at your heel. From here start to roll the ball up the length of your foot starting on the outer edge. Come back down to the heel and then up the center, back down, and up the arch. Find some nice sticky places and hold the ball there for 15-20 seconds before moving on, but definitely return to the sweet spot a couple of times. Try not to destroy your foot. The fascia and muscles of your foot can be quite sensitive, especially if you have never given them a little love so don't crush their souls. A little extra tip here, if you freeze the golf ball first it will help relieve inflammation at the same time.
MAKE SMART FEET
This last one is more of an exercise for strengthening not only your feet but also your brain-foot connectivity. Plus it's just kinda fun to see if you can do it. Standing on your feet, pick all 10 toes up, now try to drop down and pick back up just your big toes, repeat 10 times. Next try the same thing but with your pinky toes. And lastly, try to alternate between moving your big toe up and down and your pinky toe, repeat 10 times. Totally heelarious I know.
Well there you have it folks: a deep soulful connection with your soles. Show them some love the next time you put them through hell. And what's awesome about supple smart feet is they will likely make your ankles and calves much happier too. It's all connected you know. (And don't start leaving your wall ball under the stairs on those 400s, that's my spot so find your own)