Evidence-Based Exercise: Short Foot

Discussion in 'Front Page News' started by Barefoot TJ, Dec 24, 2012.

  1. Barefoot TJ Administrator
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    Evidence-Based Exercise: Short Foot
    Dr. Emily Splichal

    When we consider the role of intrinsic foot strength two important functions come to mind:

    1. Dissipation of ground reaction forces
    2. Support of the medial longitudinal arch

    Both of which are key to optimal foot mechanics and lower extremity kinematics!

    As the minimalist movement continues to gain momentum, this type of foot wear and training must still be augmented with some foot-specific exercises. Certainly there may be decreased ground reaction forces (GRFs) if we alter our running mechanics or foot strike patterns - but no type of closed chain movement is free of all GRFs!

    So what can we do?

    We can start by integrating exercises that specifically strengthen our foot intrinsics and create a foundation of proper plantar foot strength.

    Various "intrinsic" foot exercises can be found on the internet but unfortunately most are purely anecdotal and have not been "proven" to actually strengthen foot intrinsics.

    That is why this month's Evidence-Based Exercise is going to look at one of the best intrinsic foot exercises - short foot! (aka Janda short foot)

    A 2011 study by Jung et al looked at the varying muscle activation patterns of short foot and one of the most commonly recommended "intrinsic exercise" toe curls or toe crunches.

    Looking specifically at the abductor hallucis muscle, Jung et al. found that EMG muscle activity was significantly greater in the short foot exercise versus the toe curl exercise. When looking at the short foot exercise the muscle activation increased even more when the exercise was performed in a single leg closed chain position.

    Why the abductor hallucis muscle?

    Muscle activation and strength of the abductor hallucis muscle is important as studies have shown that this intrinsic muscle not only helps absorbs shock but it prevents collapse of the medial arch - or what is called navicular drop. This navicular drop can drive the rearfoot into eversion which translates into leg and hip compensations.

    How the health and wellness professional integrate the short foot exercise?

    I use the short foot exercise as an activation exercise in my patients and clients with over-pronation or decreased medial arch. As an activation exercise hold the short foot for 8 seconds and repeat 4 times.

    I also use the short foot as an intrinsic exercise for my runners, dancers and those suffering from plantar fasciitis! What's great about this exercise is that it is easy enough to do while doing dishes, washing face etc. Its a great exercise to give to clients and patients as homework!


    Jung, D et al. A comparison in muscle activity of the abductor hallucis and the medial longitudinal arch angle during toe curl and short foot exercises. Phy Ther in Sport, 2011. 12: 30-35.

    Evidence Based Fitness Academy, Inc.
    "Apply Research - Achieving Results!"



    Sid likes this.
  2. Barefoot YOW Barefooters
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    Can I get clarification on how to execute the short foot exercise? Is it applying pressure with your toes/forefoot in an effort to raise your arch?


  3. migangelo Barefooters
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    yes please. there's no sound on the video.


  4. Dr Emily Splichal Barefooters

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    This can be a tricky exercise to grasp at first as it truly demonstrates the importance of mind/muscle connection!

    Some tips I share with patients and movement specialists I teach are:

    1. Start by standing - sitting actually makes it harder to engage this muscle

    2. Focus on one foot at a time - if you are right handed I typically have patients start with their right foot.

    3. Imagine pushing the big toe down into the ground without contracting or pulling the lesser toes inward

    4. OR.... Try dragging the foot back slightly like you are trying to get gum off of your foot.

    When done correctly you should feel the small muscle along the inside of your foot engage, your foot will get narrower and your foot transverse arch (area under ball of foot) will increase height.

    Because we are trying to "wake up" this muscle - hold the contraction for 8 seconds, relax and repeat 5 times.

    You will feel the muscles of your legs, glutes - and ideally your deep abdominals engage when you do short foot! This emphasizes how integrated the foot is in all other hip and pelvis movements!


    dutchie53 likes this.
  5. jldeleon Chapter Presidents
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    I haven't actually looked at this in depth, but, does it matter WHY ones' foot would be short to begin with? For example, I have one foot that is literally shorter than the other. However, some people have one foot that is shorter than the other because they have hips that are twisted upward on one side. Will these exercises be helpful in both of those cases?


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