The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Do You Have Elite Feet? Assessing Foot Alignment and Strength

Posted by on Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

Want to be healthy and strong? Total body power begins with the feet! The best runners exemplify perfect form—feet facing straight ahead, rolling from the heel through a strong arch, loading the ball of the foot and big toe, and pushing straight off the forefoot. The term for this action is “elite feet,” and it’s something we should all aspire to if we want to stay mobile and pain-free.

Foot function is too often ignored in the sports medicine field. Often, doctors address foot function only when a patient has a problem such as plantar fasciitis or tendinitis. But how the foot is loaded, aligned, and strikes the ground matters. A balanced, loaded foot leads to proper hip-muscle engagement, pelvic stability, stride power, speed, and agility. We routinely check runners at our gait analysis center to see how the body is performing, and to predict—with startling accuracy—where problems may arise.

In this article, our White Plains podiatrists discuss how to tell if you have elite feet, what exercises can strengthen foot strength and form, and what role a podiatrist may play in helping you improve foot stability.

White Plains podiatrists discuss the importance of proper "elite feet" positioning while running and walking.
White Plains podiatrists discuss the importance of proper “elite feet” positioning while running and walking. Image Source: Free Stock Photos user Petr Kratochvil.

Elite Feet Tests

Try these simple tests to see if you have elite feet:

  • How many heel raises can you do?
    • 60-100 doubles (30-50 singles): Excellent! There’s a good chance you have elite feet!
    • 30-40 doubles (20-30 singles): Fair enough! Your feet are strong, but keep doing exercises to improve!
    • Less than 30 doubles (20 singles): Poor! Your feet suffer from weakness. Consult a White Plains podiatrist to learn how to strengthen them.
  • Have a friend take a rear-view video of you taking a stride, then consider the following questions:
    • Does your foot push off straight back towards the screen?
    • Is it angling out to either side?
    • Does your trunk shift to one side or the other?
    • If so, you may have weak feet!

Why Does Foot Strength and Alignment Matter?

Patients with weak feet often complain of:

  • Collapsed arches
  • Ankle pain
  • Shin splints
  • Iliotibial band pain
  • Pelvic ache
  • Leg cramps during long runs
  • Lower back pain
  • Sideways running and wasted energy
  • Under or overpronation-related foot pain
  • Gait that favors one side
  • Front, side, and rear hip pain

By contrast, patients with strong, well-aligned feet enjoy maximum hip activation. They rarely suffer from fatigued quads, hamstrings, and calves. Such individuals can run faster since no time is wasted through shock absorption, and overall comfort is improved.

Elite Feet Exercises

  • Heel raises: Stand flat on the edge of a stair step. Move your weight into the ball of the foot and big toe. Take care to keep your toes flat rather than curled down and in. Slightly bend the knees, rotate the knees outward until the kneecap is centered over the third toe, and roll through the ball of the foot for a count of one. Lower again for a slow count of three.
  • Ankling drills: Focus on quickly rolling and popping off the forefoot, with 3-4 reps of 10-15 meters. Here’s a video that demonstrates how to use ankling drills to improve speed and form:

  • Lunges: Step forward with one leg, keeping the back leg slightly bent and dipping down with all your weight evenly distributed over your front foot. Outward knee alignment is ideal. Alternate legs, doing 3-4 sets of 8.
  • Hip Stability Exercises: Try these hip stability exercises from Run To The Finish to reduce the likelihood of knee, hip, or iliotibial band pain. Leg lifts are your best friend!

Mindfulness is important, whether walking or running. Think about moving in a straight, forward motion. Our sports medicine specialists can offer specific pointers in the gait analysis center to train your body to move in a way that reduces the risk of injury and improves load-sharing from your feet through your legs and hips.

How White Plains Podiatrists Can Help

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine offices in White Plains and Manhattan are both equipped with gait analysis equipment that can provide tremendous feedback about the pressure points of the feet, areas of weakness, strength, alignment, and structural anomalies that could contribute to pain or injury in the future.

Supportive custom orthotics may be helpful and even necessary to stabilize the medial arch and load the forefoot. We especially recommend orthotics for people suffering from joint instability, severe hyper-flexibility, weakness, or pain. Orthotics are no substitute for strong muscles, but they can at least help offload some of the pressure and keep the foot in a more natural position. We can also show patients how to kinesio-tape the feet to dramatically improve foot positioning during runs. One study found that hip-extension range of motion improved by 10% when runners taped their feet.

Contact Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, DPM and his White Plains podiatry staff to learn more about gait analysis, custom orthotics, and foot strengthening.

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.