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Put your best foot forward

Fitness expert Sarah Cowley explains how important our feet are in maintaining stability and strength.

Our feet are our primary contact points with the ground, allowing us to walk and run. They act as important touchpoints through which sensory receptors in our muscles, tendons and skin called proprioceptors help us balance, move and navigate.

One foot is made up of 28 bones, 30 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments all working together to provide stability, mobility and balance.

Forces greater than our body weight are transmitted through our feet when walking, and even more so when running and jumping which tremendously increases the force through our feet and body.

Being aware of your own gait (walking) pattern is a great start to taking better care of your feet. A normal gait pattern involves some supination (when the foot rolls outwards) and pronation (when the foot rolls inward). Excessive supination or pronation may lead to injury in the foot or create imbalances further up your body.

When you know your normal gait pattern, you’re then able to get appropriate footwear. Being in the right shoes can make a big difference in the quality of your movement and decrease your risk of injury.

Stability exercise

To maintain foot mobility, sit on a chair and put one foot in the air in front of you. Using your foot as a ‘pen’, write the letters of the alphabet in the air. Having some foot mobility also helps to disperse load more effectively.

Strength exercise

To strengthen the intrinsic muscles within the foot, place tea towel underneath your feet when sitting. Scrunch up your toes and, in the process, scrunch up the tea towel.

Having strong foot muscles helps hold your foot in a good place when it first contacts the ground and when it leaves the ground to take the next step.

The longest journey begins with the smallest step, so remember not to forget about your feet on your fitness journey.

Your step-up monthly challenge

Work on your foot strength and balance

  • Stand on one foot for a minute without holding onto anything.
  • Now, do it on the other foot.
  • Finally, try this with your eyes closed.

Work your way up to challenge yourself with your eyes closed. This a great exercise for all ages and stages, from young teens wanting to be better on the sports field, to grandparents wanting to maintain their balance to avoid falls.