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Injury Prevention

Your Best Foot Forward

An effort to strengthen your feet can make the difference in your speed, form and resistance to injury.

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An effort to strengthen your feet can make the difference in your speed, form and resistance to injury.

Photo: Nils Nilsen

Poor coordination of the feet is often the root cause of lower-leg running injuries. There are two main reasons for this: The neuromuscular pathway from the brain to the feet is the longest in the body, making for slow and inefficient coordination, and the small amount of muscle in the feet makes it difficult for the brain to coordinate proprioception and balance.

“There are 26 bones that make up the foot and ankle, dozens of joints and tendons that separate and move each bone,” says Dr. Kathy Coutinho, an applied kinesiologist, a certified chiropractic sports physician and an Active Release Technique (A.R.T.) provider. “A weakened structure in one area of the foot or ankle means all other tissues in the immediate area have to make up for that imbalance. Then begins the slow downward cycle of compensation and wear and tear that can lead to all sorts of nightmare injuries like the dreaded plantar fasciitis.”

By challenging the feet, you can create clearer neuromuscular pathways to the brain and therefore help prevent future injuries. The following drills will only take three minutes at the end of your warmup before every run. They should be completed in bare feet.

Six Every-Run Drills (do each for 30 seconds on a soft surface)

1. Invert: Walk on the outside of your foot.
2. Evert: Walk on the inside of your foot.
3. Adduct: Walk pigeon-toed, or with your toes pointing in.
4. Charlie Chaplin: Walk with your toes pointing out.
5. High heels: Walk backward on your toes.
6.Heels: Walk on your heels—do this one with shoes to prevent bone bruising.