Give me feet of steel.
April 24, 2008 6:42 AM   Subscribe

Resources for exercises for my feet, arches, ankles, and lower legs?

I'm a distance runner -- or, more accurately, was one until after my first marathon, when IT Band Syndrome finally caught up with me. I've done physical therapy but will have to go back to the doc's for more treatment. Right now I can't do more than three miles for fear of making things worse.

I'm told the ITBS is likely a result of my overpronation, which I'd like to correct. Inspired by this post, I ran a mile barefoot on the treadmill last night, then spent the rest of the evening walking around barefoot and paying careful attention to feedback from my feet, and learned more about my gait from that than six months of running prior. I found myself working muscles in my feet and lower legs that I didn't even know I had. It was, in short, awesome, and has encouraged me that maybe I can build up muscles to help at least partially correct my gait so maybe I can ultimately transition to a lighter-weight shoe.

Thing is, I'm not finding many resources for strengthening exercises that target ankles, shin muscles and feet for overpronaters, so I turn to you for help. Resources need not be online. Books are good too, though I'd prefer not to kill trees. Give me feet of steel, people.

And yes, I will check with the doctor, but it'll be a bit before I can get in to see her.
posted by middleclasstool to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I also pronate, and have a screwed up right leg at the moment partly as a result. I've found that certain exercises on a Pilates reformer (it's a specialised machine) really helped, with visible differences after one session.

Perhaps you could go and have a chat with a Pilates instructor, or even have a session, and see what you think?
posted by djgh at 6:55 AM on April 24, 2008

I've been fighting recurrent shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome), with flat feet and subsequent overpronation. Things that have helped me:
1. Arch supports and lifts (reduces pronation and decreases tension on the achilles/soleus)
2. Seated calf raises to strengthen the soleus.
3. Stretching the calves regularly.

For ITBS (which I was able to cure and hasn't recurred) I did a lot of side leg raises and stretching of the tensor fascia lata which is the culprit. I wasn't aware that ITBS was an overpronation injury, just a tightness of the lateral fascia (ischium to tibia) but that may have just been in my case.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 6:58 AM on April 24, 2008

You may have learned some of these in PT), but some of the ones I learned from PT, yoga, and other runners when I had ITBS and PF:

--Get one of those rubbery balancing disks and stand one leg at a time for two minutes. Alternate.

--Stand on one leg while you are brushing your teeth.

--Sit on a chair in a regular way, knees bent at 90 degrees, with a pile of marbles in front of you, slightly off to the side. One by one, pick up a marble with your toes and place it about six inches away from the original pile, making another pile. Try to move only your ankle.

--Get a resistance band, tie it to a fixed spot. Sit on the floor facing the band, loop it around the top of your foot and sit far enough away to create some resistance. Do gentle back and forth and side to side repetitions.

--Toe raises (aka calf raises).

--Trail running.

--Vrksasana ("tree pose" in yoga)

--Yoga generally.
posted by Pax at 7:06 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm have an overpronation problem too, I've seen several trainers and here are some things that have been helping me:

1. A good exercise for the ankles is balance on one foot with your eyes shut (try it! it's harder than it sounds) and count to 30, 60, etc..

2. Lunges, lunges, lunges...won't strengthen the muscles you are looking to but they have been recommended to me as a must for pronators.

3. Find a equipment store that caters to runners and ask about orthotics, a definite must.

4. Also, definitely get motion control running shoes, they combined with the orthotics made the biggest difference for me.

5. Checking with a doctor would be good, but consider seeing a trainer or physical therapist to give you exercises tailored to your specific needs. Unless you are seeing a doctor that specializes in athletic injuries, he or she probably won't be of much help.
posted by pumpkin11 at 7:07 AM on April 24, 2008

Response by poster: To clarify, I have the shoes and the orthotics, more gear frankly than I probably need. I'd like to focus on just strengthening exercises here. A number of resources I've found recommend doing them, but don't say what exercises to do.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:30 AM on April 24, 2008

Related: Interestingly BoingBoing linked to this NY Times Mag story this morning.
posted by jeffe at 8:33 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Squat Squat Squat. Just make sure your form is PERFECT. Buy Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe.
posted by tiburon at 8:58 AM on April 24, 2008

Thanks for the clarification. My former track coach gave me various calisthenics to do. One of interest to you might be the "duck walk"-- like a lunge but you must keep your hips at a level height.

We also did backwards runs across a football field and back, which will be good for your balance/lower legs/ankles.

If you find a nice soft field to do these, you can do them barefoot, as we did, to work your foot muscles.
posted by pumpkin11 at 9:24 AM on April 24, 2008

Seconding what pax said...any yoga balancing posture will strengthen your feet. I feel it when doing Warrior 3 especially. Hero Pose is supposed to be especially for stretching the top of the foot and strengthening the sole, but I haven't tried it much. It's demonstrated at about 2:15 of this video .
posted by danOstuporStar at 10:21 AM on April 24, 2008

Seconding the pilates.
And another way to have some fun while strengthening your feet is to try out ballroom dancing. This week (Apr 25-May 4) is National Dance Week. Check out your neighbourhood ballroom studio - they may have free demonstrations/lessons...
posted by Arthur Dent at 4:33 PM on April 24, 2008

Feet of steel! I have very flat feet, and I'm working on this too.

I am currently using Active Isolated Stretching and Active Isolating Strength by Aaron Mattes. (No ties to him. I just love his stuff.)

Because we pronate, our feet are already too loose. Strengthening is much more important. I have had excellent (but not yet complete) results regaining my arch by doing all the strengthening exercises (gently, carefully, with as much weight as possible while keeping perfect form). My feet are much, much happier and more functional. (I have a long way to go, but I never thought they'd be working as well as they do. I love it.)

Also, your knees, hips, and lower back endurance, strength, and flexibility all affect how your feet splay out. Strengthening my transverse abdominis and multifidi made a big difference. I recommend Low Back Disorders by Stuart McGill for his big three exercises (special curls, side bridge, and bird dogs).

I'm seriously considering getting one of these. But, I've had plenty of success with all sorts of improvisation.

Finally, when my feet are just a bit stronger, I'm purchasing Vibram Five Fingers and it will be awesome. There's a also a Vivo something shoe that's been mentioned.

Finally, this is an awesome article about shoes.
posted by zeek321 at 6:17 PM on April 24, 2008

Finally, this free pdf was really useful to me for a few months.
posted by zeek321 at 5:21 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

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