Category Archives: plantar facsiities

Got Foot Strength?

screaming feet

“I hardly use my toes, why should I strengthen them?” stated the dimwitted big-biceped gym rat.  It may seem insignificant but the inability to control the stability of the foot and toes has paramount implications on the entire body.  As you step down your foot is the first part of your anatomy that has to overcome all ground forces.  Depending on how your foot falls it will negatively or positively affect the integrity of your knee joints, lumbopelvic hip stability and the rest of the translated forces up the kinetic chain.  Most of us wear shoes all day long and barely spend anytime barefoot. I fear to say that many people spend no time barefoot except for when they are sleeping.  Just to be clear, when I say “barefoot” I mean just that: naked feet sans shoes, slippers, and socks.  Shoes are ruining our feet and additionally causing lots of unmitigated knee, hip and lower back pain.  Most footwear quietly over time wreaks havoc on our anatomy.  The foot coffins we don, although maybe sexy, have been shown to cause:

  1. Bunions, corns, and blisters
  2. Fallen arches
  3. Hammer toes
  4. Ingrown toenails
  5. Increased chances of ankle sprains
  6. Foot disfigurement
  7. Athlete’s Foot (bacterial and fungal infections)
  8. Hallux valgus (inward turning of big toe)
  9. Shortens and weakens the Achilles tendon and calf musculature
  10. Plantar fasciitis

Shoes provide us with a form of self-imposed neurological and muscular blindness.  They prevent us from feeling the ground and using the muscles in our feet correctly.  A shoe works in a similar way to a cast.  It protects us from the environment and holds the architecture of the foot rigid yet our feet crave freedom.  Shod individuals have blindfolded and bound their own feet in order to protect against the elements.  If the foot was a person, it would scream “torture” (AKA: enhanced stressed positions).  Research shows going barefoot improves alignment, strengthens the foot, increases flexibility and promotes better balance and proprioception.

Did you ever see Daniel Day-Lewis in “My Left Foot”?  His character lost the ability to use most of his body except, you guessed it, his left foot.  Anyway, with only one limb working, he became very adept at using his foot to paint, eat, write etc.  Many babies and toddlers have this same ability.  The main reason we lose our natural lower limb dexterity because we stop using our feet and toes and begin wearing shoes.  In congenitally barefoot societies the breadth of foot strength and dexterity is simply amazing by our standards.

Let’s see how much control you have over your toes and feet. Try these 4 things to improve your foot’s dexterity, strength, and balance.

1. Stand up and push your big toe down into the ground (but don’t bend/flex it) and lift your other toes up while keeping your heel on the ground (make sure not to roll the ankle in or out).

2. How about lifting your big toe up and pressing your other four toes down (but don’t bend them) while keeping your heels grounded?

3. Try standing on one foot, not shifting all your weight to that side, and balance on 3 points: big toe, heel, and Ball under the small toe.  Hold for 30 seconds.

4. Janda’s Short foot – a great micro-movement that strengthens your 1st MTP and arch:


The 1st MTP (big toe) supports the weight of your body while walking and running.  It also serves as the push off point during locomotion.  However, most running sneakers have a narrow toe box that is flexed upwards (industry standard is 15 degrees…high heels are much more), putting all your toes in extension and preventing the 1st MTP from properly flexing down and propelling you off into the next step.   During the landing phase of walking/running, the big toe helps raise the arch (medial longitudinal arch) and thus locks the bones of the foot causing temporary stiffness which allows for propulsion.  In shoes the 1st MTP is immobilized like a fish in a tin can preventing the arch mechanics from properly working.  Most congenitally shod individuals have weakened toes and potentially inhibited foot muscles from all that shoe wearing.  We develop compensations from these weak links and our knees, hips and back suffer for it.  As often as you can kick off your shoes and walk around (uneven surfaces are great) and practice the above exercises to regain some of your innate foot dexterity and balance.


1. Influence of Footwear on Flat foot
2. Rossi, William A. “Why Shoes Make” Normal” Gait Impossible.” Part 1 (1999): 50-61.
3. Janda Foot Exercise
4. Walking Barefoot Decreases Knee Pain
5. Lumbo-Pelvic Hip Stabilization and Foot Strength From Dr. Emily Splichal
6. Shoe Design Manipulates Human Movement

Doug Joachim – NYC
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High Heels Hurt: What to Do?

personal training in-home nyc  

High heels hurt and wreak havoc on the body.  But why do woman endure the pain?  Here are some reasons I’ve heard:

  1. They raise my butt up and make it look better. The JLo effect.
  2. They instantly increase my height and give me more power.
  3. Lots of men like them and think they are sexy.
  4. They make my calves and legs look more sleek and developed.
  5. They cover my nasty gnarly looking toes
  6. I feel sexier wearing them. 
  7. They complete my outfits. 
  8. I just like them.  

So does the benefits of wearing high heels out weigh the costs?  For most women the answer is a resounding yes!  I know I’m never going to get women (or men) to stop wearing them.  My goal is to limit the  the amount of time you spend in them and perhaps reduce/prevent the associated pain.  

FYI: Most men’s shoes and athletic sneakers have heels.  Some are over 2″ higher than lowest part of the foot!

Reasons to rethink the high heel:

  1. An elevated heel of any height shortens and weakens the calf musculature and Achilles tendon. 
  2. Prolonged use causes permanent Achilles tendon shortening.
  3. Excessive strain on the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon.
  4. A body weight shift forward changes your natural upright posture and causes muscle fatigue and compensatory movement patterns.
  5. Increased impact forces on all of your joints specifically your knees, ankles and toes.
  6. Increased knee, hip and spine pain due to the unnatural posture and gait.
  7. Increases the severity and frequency of headaches.
  8. Reduces the shock absorbing and elastic properties of your arches. 
  9. May cause hammer toes and other toe deformities.
  10. Increases the chances of ingrown toes, corns and bunions. 
  11. Increases the possibility of Morton’s neuroma (painful). 
  12. Increases risk of ankle sprains, breaks and strains. 
  13. Decreases the proprioceptive function of the toes and foot. 
  14. Strongly linked to arthritis in the knees.
  15. Puts undue stress on the lumbar spine and exacerbates lower back pain (or causes it).

Limiting the wear time of high heels and being barefoot (or wearing flat shoes) as much as possible will do wonders for your feet.  And due to the excessive strain high heels put on the inside of the knee (causing osteoarthritis) it is a good idea to strengthen your gluteals (which rotate your leg outwards, taking stress off the medial part of your knee) and VMO (vastus medialis obliquusthe tear dropped looking muscle on the inside of your thigh which contributes to the correct knee tracking).  Stretching your calves on a daily basis for no less than 1 minute will also be helpful to counteract the excessive shortening.  Lastly,  I recommend a “Strassburg Sock”.  This attractive knit sock can be worn to bed or while you are reading this blog.  It is primarily used to alleviate plantar fasciities  but it also strengthens your arches and keeps your foot in dorsiflexion – this position passively stretches your ankle complex and the soft tissue of your calves.  Using this sock on a regular basis  is a good way to prevent or alleviate foot, knee, back pain from a high heel. 

The Strassburg Sock:


Doug Joachim – NYC
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