Core stability has been receiving much attention in the field of fitness and sports. The interest has primarily been focused on the role of the lumbopelvic-hip stability in the normal movement patterns of the lower extremity.
A game-changing paper proposed a new paradigm that involves the muscles of the foot. McKeon et al draw parallels between the abdominal core and the intrinsic foot muscles.
Enter the concept of foot core.
The concept of core stability may also be extended to the foot arch, the authors proposed. The arch is controlled with both local stabilizers and global movers of the foot, similar to the lumbopelvic core.
Our foot is a very complex structure, allowing it to serve many diverse functions. When we stand, our feet provide our base of support. When we’re in our gait position, our feet must be stable at foot-strike and push-off. But during mid-support, the feet must become a mobile adaptor and ease loads.
Foot Core System
When we talk about the core muscles, there’s what we call global movers and local stabilizers. Global movers are big, strong muscles that power movements, while local stabilizers, on the other hand, are small muscles, mainly deep below the surface, that move only short distances but are constantly working to provide stability and balance.
In the foot, it has characteristics like that of a spring. It stores and releases elastic energy with each foot strike. This is done by deforming the arch, which is controlled by intrinsic and extrinsic foot muscles. Evidence says that the musculature and design of the foot arch are developed because of the increased demands of load carriage and running. The authors proposed that the stability of the arch is the central ‘core’ of the foot, which is required for the foot to function normally. This means that proper functioning of the foot core is essential to being able to walk and run without injury.
In the paper, the authors proposed the following:
The foot core system is made up of interacting subsystems that give relevant sensory input and functional stability to accommodate to the changing demands during static and dynamic activities. The interaction of these subsystems and the abdominal core system is very similar.
The plantar intrinsic foot muscles within the active and neural subsystems play an important role in the foot core system being local stabilizers and direct sensors of foot deformation.
Assessing the foot core system can provide clinical insight into the ability of the foot to cope with changing functional demands.
Foot core training starts with targeting the plantar intrinsic muscles through short foot exercise, similar to the abdominal drawing in maneouvre, to enhance capacity and control of the foot core system.
Weak Foot Core
McKeon believes that strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot lessens the stress to the plantar fascia, which is a tissue that supports the arch of your foot. The plantar fascia is a thin ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes.
If the plantar fascia gets weak, swollen, and irritated, this will cause pain in your heel when you stand or walk. This is referred to as plantar fasciitis. You may not be able to keep up your level of activity, and may develop symptoms of the foot, knee, hip, and back problems because plantar fasciitis can change the way you walk.
A stronger foot is a healthier foot. The authors suggest strengthening programme to train the foot muscles.
While research about foot core is still far too little, the idea of it makes an interesting proposition. Probably for now, trying out some foot exercises would be beneficial, especially if you love running.
If you need help with foot exercises or got some running (or walking) problems, go see a Perth physiotherapist. Call us today at 9444 8729!