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Kit_L

Flat feet (pronation); in response to a q. from Coach Sommer

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MH's feet look wonderful now.

To the OP: don't think sets and reps; in the standing eversion exercise, come ups as high as you can, with a very small bias to the outside of the foot, and the essential muscles will cramp—hold this extremely intense sensation just for a fraction of as second when you begin, then increase the cramping part over time. Cramping is the strongest contraction the body can make, so this will leave the feet feeling sore the nest day, and will make the muscles extremely strong. Be guided by this to work out your schedule: wait at least one full day after all soreness has gone before repeating. Do a few sets each time you exercise.

Any curved surface will help the feet form. And don't forget the YouTube foot sequence: an essential part of make a good arch is to stretch the top of the feet—and this is essential for a decent toe point too. And MH's device re. balancing on curved surfaces is gold, too; I have been walking along a low metal pole (diameter 2" or 50mm) and this is an intense foot workout by itself (and works the second arch, the metatarsal arch, in addition).

Thanks Kit!

I will certainly follow your advises!

Can you comment on these exercises? Do you think they need to be added into routine?

1)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTu0bWAvSqw&t=2m16s[/CODE]

2)

[CODE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CesFCMLWDSI&t=2m50s[/CODE]

There're so many exercises all over youtube and I don't really know which I should pick for my workouts. I used to lift weights in the gym for 3 years, that's why I try to figure out how many reps/sets I need to do :) In order to progress I need either to increase stretching time when I feel [color=#282828][font=verdana, geneva, sans-serif]strongest contraction in my feet or increase amount of sets, right? Can you do me a favor and recommend the best exercises and how they have to be performed each week to avoid plateu (increase total workout time, increase hold time of strongest muscle contraction or increase amount of sets) ?[/font][/color]

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Re. 1: the sequence at 6:20 is excellent, as are any of the more advanced strengthening exercises—but balancing, single leg ones are the BEST. Do not do what he does, though, and stabilise by resting the back foot on the floor: balance the whole time. The point is that you can't balance unless the arch is formed; this is hard-wired into the body, too; it just needs to be woken up.

Re. ex. 2: excellent, for the same reasons.

Sets and reps are not, IMHO, anywhere as important as perfect execution, because that new awareness that's created thereby gets taken into daily life automatically. Do a few repetitions perfectly, a couple of times a week.

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One of the reasons that the kinds of foot problems we have been discussing here are so common is our culture's inadvertent removal of stimulation that I believe is essential to activate for all the hard-wired reflexes I have been discussing (arch formation, glute activation, balance). I am speaking of the wearing of shoes. The proprioceptors, as sense organs, are most numerous in the soles of the feet and next most numerous in the palms of the hand and—not coincidentally—these are the two parts of the body we use to exert force on the world.

Since last November and beginning the last meditation retreat in Malaysia I have not worn shoes at all. I had been wearing Vibram five fingers for about nine years up to this point and I can tell you that the transition from five fingers to bare feet is actually more difficult than the transition from normal shoes to the five fingers. Even though my favourite five fingers only have 2 mm thick soles ("Sprints"), the difference between having those 2 mm between me and the world and none is night and day.

In the transition from five fingers to bare feet I have noticed many things. Chief among them is I have become much more careful in how I place my feet and what I place my feet on. I believe it is this increase in awareness that has the most effect on the way the body chooses to use the feet. In other words, when you wear shoes, you are cutting off access to this awareness. I have also noticed that I have injured my feet a lot less in the last five months, and when I say "injure" I just mean things like stubbing the toes or catching part of the feet on building materials; that kind of thing. In addition, my awareness of what is going on around me in a larger sphere has also increased. This is not to say that I don't fall asleep at the wheel from time to time of course; I do. But I have been working on a building site since we moved to our new house and I have not warn work boots once in that period. So what would be ordinarily quite dangerous activity has turned out not to be with the addition of sufficient awareness, and the genesis of that awareness is simply self-preservation.

So for the person who works in the city centre and in an office and can't walk around the city streets in bare feet, I recommend walking on gravel for at least a few minutes today. I have found that walking on concrete has actually no effect on how you place your feet, and I have found a similar effect or non-effect when walking on smooth tar. What is needed is for the feet to feel strong discomfort: when this happens you will see that the whole body is making its best efforts to unweight the soles of the feet firstly, and secondly, doing everything it can to distribute the forces that are acting on the feet as widely over the whole feet as possible. This necessitates the formation and strengthening of the arch: this is the mechanism the foot uses to lift itself away from painful contact. As well, the toes gets stronger and I have found that, in fact, there is less weight on the ball and the outside of the front of the foot as a result of this: the toes are taking part of the weight in relation to the heel and the tripod of the whole foot + toes becomes longer and wider.

At the same time I have been doing a small amount of balancing practice, both on a slack line and on any round tubing that I can find that a foot or two off the ground like a school fences. I never had good balance when I was a teenager but last week when I came across a boom gate and I hopped up on it and walked the entire length of that feeling quite secure in my capacity to balance there. I attribute this solely to increase proprioception in the foot and directing attention to this task of balancing; once again it is self-preservation that is the motive.

Finally, even though I have been wearing five finger shoes for the last nine, years I have noticed a marked change in the shape of my feet in the last five months. The fore-foot has become meatier, my toes separate further than before and I have more control over the individual toe's movements, and although the skin on my feet is still soft I can feel that the fascia underneath the skin has toughened up. What's fascinating to me is that the skin on the fee has not toughened up—and yet I can walk on sharp things so much more easily.

That's enough for today. Excuse any typos, please; I dictated this.
 

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Great post Kit!

As you know I have been barefooting for some time now. Some interesting observations:

  • The most common comment I get about it is "Aren't you worried about stepping on a needle?" No, I'm not worried. I've never actually seen a needle on the ground in my entire life. Besides, if the needle were arranged so that it could prick my foot, I'm not sure a shoe would do anything to stop it anyway.
  • My sub conscious awareness of the ground is now "auto navigating" me around things like broken glass. I don't actually see these things consciously, but if they are in my peripheral, it seems that the sub conscious takes note and avoids them (sweet upgrade!). This is reasonably new, and wasn't the case when I first started barefooting.
  • Steak feet!
  • Seriously, I should enter a "foot building" (like body building but only for the feet) competition.
  • My feet have become supple enough, and the leathery sole so robust, that I rarely have discomfort. Even on the most harsh surfaces, my system no longer has discomfort. I find it interesting that some people who have reasonably robust feet comment on the discomfort of walking on tanbark or other surfaces that I simply have no discomfort in at all any more (and in fact I find it really pleasant).
  • I went for a long walk across many surfaces with Rafe while he was here. He caved by the end of the day and borrowed my virbrams (which live in my backpack for those social situations where shoes are required). Apparently the harsh australian environments prepare the feet to be more rugged than the nice soft moist environments of the pacific NW :D
  • In 2 years of high volume barefoot walking, I have never cut my foot seriously. A few minor injuries, a cut that was a few mm deep that DIDNT ACTUALLY PENETRATE THE DERMAL LAYER. No bleeding, minor discomfort. A few reasonably sized thorn punctures got a little red for a day or two then disappeared. That's really it. People imagine danger that is not there.
  • I don't really do much long distance running. Lots of walking, balance work, navigating natural and urban environments, climbing etc. I have in the past done 10km runs with virbrams, and shorter runs barefoot. Running on concrete barefoot tends to create blisters. Running on natural environments tends to encourage more clumsy stepping. In both situations, I would use vibrams simply so I can go faster without having to pay as much attention to the placement of my feet.
  • The only place I've felt that shod was better than barefeet was in the highlands of the forest I was hunting in. Lots of very sharp slate that could easily cut my feet. I had to move very slowly without shoes. VFF were sufficient to navigate with ease in this area.

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Great, I was just looking for this thread. My feet are actually in pretty decent shape (which I attribute to years of barefoot capoeira between 2002-2010 and generally removing my shoes as often as I can). But I'm hoping to experiment on my wife who has relatively flat feet and numerous recurring issues in her back, shoulders and neck. Her posture is okay but she is pretty tight overall and I have a feeling that better feet awareness/positioning will help a lot towards making her feel more comfortable. I will also try to get her working on the various Master programs but foot work is probably a first step ;-) in the right direction.

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Good afternoon All,

 

      My name is Chris. Just to understand my situation, I will give a brief history and then dilemma, including pictures. My arches collapsed once I turned 13, I believe one summer I put on 25 pounds. Then I was injured that year, via foot, I'm not sure which came first. However, I refer to that year and before as my prime.

 

     I love basketball, so I still play but since 13 I've attained nick names such as band aid or glass man. Always suffering ankle sprains, knee injuries, general leg pain or what I called lower system issues. To this day I still have trouble standing still as I prefer to keep moving or even run instead of walk(odd). I play basketball in track shoes now instead of basketball due to my history of injuries, preferring to do less jumping and cutting. It's somewhat kept me healthy.

    

     What is life like without leg or foot pain? I don't know, and that's why I'm here. Starting Day 2, with the exercises, hip flexors and that stair exercise. I do wear orthodics, I have like 3 different kind, I'm just searching for an answer. I'm 28 and just a little scared of the future and how this will affect me seeing its impactful now in my prime. I'll  share the progress or after pictures.

 

Thanks

Christian

 

 

Bad Foot.docx

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Hi Chris,

Highly suggest you read every post in this thread.

Things you should do to help your feet:

-follow kit's programming mentioned in the opening post.

-follow the exercises in the silly walks videos I posted

-start doing lots of barefooted balancing on logs and then rails as soon as you are able.

This should get you well on your way to fixing your issue. Your muscles will be weak and find a lot of these exercises difficult and sometimes perhaps impossible. Be patient, stick at it, be consistent. Fluffing around with it once a month probably isn't going to change much, but if you get stuck into at least one of the elements I've mentioned above per day, then you should see significant change within a month or two, and within a year your feet will be completely different.

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Thanks for advice, already feeling a difference. I'm definitely more conscious of where I allow pressure to disperse. But it's only been a week, so still far from where I desire.

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Hang in there, Christian. It took over eight years of daily only-Five Fingers walking and running for my body to adapt completely (away from shoes) to the extent I can't wear shoes now. And just over five years in that period for the peripheral sense connection to protecting my feet really manifested and, like Craig, rarely hurt my feet in that period. In fact the worst injury I ever had in my feet was sustained when wearing FFs (MH will recall the details!!!). Since then, I have been barefoot all the time (in fact, since that injury) and I have not hurt my feet once since then. 

 

Read THIS, too; related I feel, especially the comments. All this takes time, something that the researchers never give self-help approaches.

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About 5 years since I started barefoot journey. My feet are still adapting, there is some range missing in parts of the ankle. I'm currently playing with internally rotated feet with externally rotated knees in squats to fix this. Cramp city in the arches! My feet are getting stronger, more robust and capable of dealing with temps down to about 2 Celsius and can take punishment from almost any surface with out notice. Most importantly, my feet *feel* more alive than ever before!

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  • My sub conscious awareness of the ground is now "auto navigating" me around things like broken glass. I don't actually see these things consciously, but if they are in my peripheral, it seems that the sub conscious takes note and avoids them (sweet upgrade!). This is reasonably new, and wasn't the case when I first started barefooting.
  • Steak feet!
  • Seriously, I should enter a "foot building" (like body building but only for the feet) competition.

 

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Just a warning - exercises cant always do it all. I tried and now have a ruptured posterior tibialis ligament which severely restricts what I can do. Depending on how bad it is, I suggest the first thing is to get into the pain-free zone for your feet. If that means expensive custom orthotics fitted by a qualified podiatrist, so be it. These will support the foot in a stable position. Once you are in the pain-free zone, then you can start strengthening, to give the feet the natural stability they need (essential). Strengthening while suffering pain especially if the pain gets worse with exercise will just irritate the tendons further if they are already suffering. Some ligaments (especially the posterior tibialis where it goes round the ankle) have a at-risk zone for rupture, where the blood supply is poor and where there can be a lot of force on the ligament when attempting to hold a pronating foot in its proper alignment. Minor tendon tears can accumulate with time leading to a full rupture. The tendon cannot be rejoined - any repair then involves extensive surgery (reconstruction of the foot - i.e. diverting many of the other tendons surgically to new paths) best avoided.

 

So the answer is, yes strengthen and do the exercises, but if the issue gets worse, not better, seek advice from a podiatrist.

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Jim wrote:

 

Just a warning - exercises cant always do it all. I tried and now have a ruptured posterior tibialis ligament which severely restricts what I can do.

 

Do you mean that exercises ruptured (or contributed to it) the posterior tibialis ligament? Or was this caused by something else? 

 

Sorry to hear that this tendon can't be repaired, too, given the methods currently used, but it might be worth keeping looking; new methods emerge regularly, as you know. 

 

Last, do you wear orthotics, and has strengthening exercise done in orthotics helped your ankle alignment?

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The rupture was caused by too much long-term strain on the tendon, trying to hold a pronated foot in the correct alignment (even with orthotics). It is well known (but was not by me at the time) that this tendon is vulnerable to rupture at a point where it goes round a corner in the ankle and has particularly poor blood supply. As with tendons, small amounts of damage over time accumulated until there was a complete and sudden rupture.

 

I doubt if advances would mean it can be rejoined - and the ends have now withdrawn so far that they may have got resorbed. The usual surgical treatment involves reconstructing the tendons of the foot - taking tendons from elsewhere and resewing them in a new path to replace the ruptured one. They decided I wasnt bad enough for that.

 

I wear orthootics to keep my feet in some sort of alignment, but cant do a calf rise on that side. However the surgeon was surprised at the amount of function I had - which I put down to ballet - I attempt to do rises on that side (with a little jump to start it, and pull on the barre for a little extra help). This keeps the foot muscles strong and helps support the foot in other ways. Its because I hadnt been doing this earlier on after a strain, that extra force was put on the tendon, which was the last straw.

 

So ballet ironically has helped me, although it was why the tendon ruptured in the first place - that, and bad pronation which was the fundamental cause.

 

Cheers, Jim.

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After attending the "Fighting monkey" workshop, Jozef recommended to train as much as the upper body as your feet. Since I have "flat feet", I want to go back and strengthen my arches again. Perhaps a longer video serie about strengthening the feet could be interesting. 

 

Here I think is a great video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OOJ9AQ1AEg

 

What's your opinion on this video Kit?

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Edwin,

If you go back and read the rest of the thread, you'll see I posted 3 videos that are over 30 minutes of foot awakening and strengthening exercises. I don't know if you really need more than this and what kit has posted in his series. Only thing left to do is practice! :)

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Hi all,

 

I got into improving my functionality in the past few years through cycling more seriously / entering races and now I'm obsessed with improving my functionality but without such a cycling focus - just having good functionality in general is my focus.  As my feet have been a problem since about 13/14 years old (now 32) they are now receiving a lot of my attention and I've got a couple of pairs of VFF kso evos a couple of months ago and have just replaced my work shoes (with a big heel) with vivobarefoot shoes.  My first walk on VFFs in the woods was really exciting and like a sensory overload.  My first week was really tough on the muscles of my feet but all seems pretty good now.

 

When I first had foot problems I used to get extremely sharp pains in the arch of my feet when running around on hard surfaces and consequently did some major compensations to my walking / running to try and avoid it happening, things got worse and it happened more often.  I saw podiatrists through the NHS and they gave me casts - I mean hard arch inserts for my shoes.  These weren't comfortable to walk on and in the end I stopped using them and found that when I lost some weight (I wasn't overweight) it was enough to stop the sharp arch pains.  But by this stage I'm sure I had completely changed the way I used my feet through compensations.

 

If I look at my feet today I have callusing to the ball of my foot in a triangle shape behind the 2nd and 3rd toe.  Behind my 1st toe (big toe) the skin is as smooth as my arch as if it has never been walked on. behind the 5th toe I have light callusing.  In yoga I can't lift my big toe on its own no matter how much I try but I can do the reverse.  My arches collapse completely under load and the arch of my foot is really tight.  I've always used the ball of my foot more than most people when running (I don't generally run) / walking as people have commented.  I have a shorter right leg of at least 4-5mm which I believe is probably why I use the ball of my right foot more than my left.  Since trying a 4mm heel lift recently in all my footwear I've found that I walk more evenly and my right soleus muscle seems to be taking some of the load off my tight right gastroc muscle because at first the soleus was sore. 

 

When standing with my toes lifted the weight feels like it is through where my calluses are and not through the inside of my foot.  From behind my ankles either don't pronate or only slightly when static but start pronating with only a little bit of weight shifting. 

 

I have some questions:

When performing the anti-pronation exercise, no matter how hard I try I can't get my calf muscles or any foot muscle to cramp. I can only think this is because I am very calf (gastroc) muscle dominant?

 

I lack a lot of dorsiflexion of the ankles and can only do a deep squat in yoga with a block, however this seems to be getting better and the VFFs have made the biggest difference.  From what I've read this contributes to pronation so as a priority I should concentrate on improving dorsiflexion?

 

Does anyone have any tips for getting just their big toe to lift separately?  My brain just won't compute and I've tried for a while.

 

Any general insight into what my feet could be doing would be appreciated.

 

Thanks

 

Ed

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I have some questions:

When performing the anti-pronation exercise, no matter how hard I try I can't get my calf muscles or any foot muscle to cramp. I can only think this is because I am very calf (gastroc) muscle dominant?

 

I lack a lot of dorsiflexion of the ankles and can only do a deep squat in yoga with a block, however this seems to be getting better and the VFFs have made the biggest difference.  From what I've read this contributes to pronation so as a priority I should concentrate on improving dorsiflexion?

 

Does anyone have any tips for getting just their big toe to lift separately?  My brain just won't compute and I've tried for a while.

 

Any general insight into what my feet could be doing would be appreciated.

 

Thanks

 

Ed

 

Regards to non-cramping. Well just stay up there for long enough! On one leg as high as you can, with the weight slightly to the outside. If you do not cramp you should at the very least get a very strong burning sensation going. The problem may be that you cannot get all the way up onto the toes, there should basically be a 90 degree bend between the toes and the ball of the foot.

 

A full squat is essential for a host of different reasons. There is plenty of material on the forums, the Youtube and Vimeo to help you in this endeavor.

 

Big Toe Lift: Try physically lifting the big toe, while trying to also lift it on its own accord. The movement in the desired direction combined with the intent and awarenss should make it happen fairly quickly, but you need to practice it many times a day to get traction on it. I did have the same problem and just by trying over and over to move the big toe eventually I got it. It just takes practice, more for some people.

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you can also try pinning the other toes for a little while until you have the feeling of lifting the big toe only, then return to the practice fred talked about.  You need daily practice for this.

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Thanks for your input Fred & Craig.

At best I can only get about 75-80° angle between the ball of my foot and toes when performing the foot sequence so this is probably a factor.  Also due to this and the lack of ankle dorsiflexion my knee is a good 15cm from the floor doing that sequence while keeping the ball of my foot in contact with the floor.

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Cramping will not happen until you get high enough—so (and this seems like a paradox, perhaps), help yourself up to the absolute highest point by pulling on something, then let that assistance go slowly and hold this new top position, making sure you are working literally as hard as you can. People with pronating ankles often have a significantly lower sensory connection to the muscles of both the feet and the lower leg, so this requires real work and commitment. Make sure you have only a small bias to the little toe side.

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@Edwin DL: please really go though all the material on this thread before posting someone else's material (especially for your first post) and please only post material that adds or improves what's here. I have not watched this video yet; about to teach a workshop.

 

If you feel Andrea's material is an improvement, can you list the additions/variations that extend what's here, in the interests of saving people's time. You can use the time stamps in the video as reference points (as in, "see 2:47 for x, and 6:15 for y"). That will also answer your question.

 

Don't misunderstand me: he has good material, but personally I am only interested in what extends, modifies, or adds to what we are doing here.

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@Kit_L: I find I can get up to the same height whether I pull myself up or not.  I can hold the position for about 30 seconds while trying as hard as I can pretty much causing my eyes to water and all that stops me in the end is fatigue.  Applying logic I've come up with the following:

 

I presume my anterior transverse arch is has no strength hence the callusing beneath but baby soft skin behind the big toe.  From what I've read this probably means a weak fibularis longus or peroneus longus?  Please excuse my lack of anatomy knowledge.  Does this mean I need more foot eversion to get the joint behind the big toe to the ground?

 

I've figured that because I naturally put (a lot) more weight towards my small toe when plantar flexed I find I need to consciously put more weight towards my big toe - at least it feels like this to me when performing this exercise rather than any kind of small bias to the small toe.  When I do this I do feel a pain / cramp which I think is in my soleus muscle but not certain (about 5 or 6 inches above my ankle joint).  My knee is still towards the outside of the ball of my foot while doing this.

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@Edd: 

Quote

I need to consciously put more weight towards my big toe - at least it feels like this to me when performing this exercise rather than any kind of small bias to the small toe.  When I do this I do feel a pain / cramp which I think is in my soleus muscle

 

That's it, exactly. That is soleus and perhaps posterior tibialis. These are the ones you want to strengthen.

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