Attacking Limiting Factors: Arch Development

There are many perks that come with being on the Power Athlete team; sweet gear, international travel, and the opportunity to assess hundreds of athletes in an accelerated window.  No matter where we are in the world, many of the same limiting factors show up.  Weak trunk, difficultly moving hips through space, and little shoulder girdle awareness, to name a few.  But there is another limiting factor that I have been noticing more and more, flat feet.

supinate-pronate-normal (1)Flat feet occur when the arch collapses and the ankle pronates, rolls in, excessively.  This position of the foot has a chain reaction of misalignment and potential for injury to the ankles, knee, hips and all the way up to the shoulders!  Problems arise from flat feet when they are either ignored, accepted, or given a quick fix.  Quick fixes include 'arch support' insoles or heavy, padded shoe recommendations that provide temporary relief for the foot, and ignore up chain consequences.  This quick fix breaks a golden rule: muscles are developed and maintain their strength only when they are used. You must stress to progress!

The central nervous system and the role it plays in our training is a frequent topic of discussion on our blogroll.  What few people realize is how receptive the foot is helps the central nervous system in determining the forces of an action and the intramuscular coordination necessary for the body to react.  The sole of the barefoot also exhibits a powerful plantar surface protective response which diminishes plantar loading on ground contact, which reduces the risk of damage from overloading during locomotion.  Compression of any part of the sole during squats, cleans, presses or other standing exercises can cause general instability and shearing at the above joints.  Athletes who never move barefoot diminish this plantar sensory feedback and affecting reflexes and recruitment!

Athletes must be aware of the reduction of proprioceptive and tactile sensitivity that they are losing by never training their barefeet.  This article a take a quick look at the anatomy of the arch of the foot and provide movements for foot arch development and training of the intrinsic muscles of the foot. These movements will benefit not only the flat footed athlete, but also those looking to improve explosiveness in their squats, Olympic lifts, and plyometrics. Enjoy!


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Tex McQuilkin
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Tex McQuilkin

Director of Training at Power Athlete
Book a consult with me regarding coaching, training, life, education... anything your heart desires. Click below:

Former collegiate lacrosse defensive midfielder, 4-year letter winner and 3-year team captain. Coached strength and conditioning collegiately with Georgetown University football, Men's and Women's lacrosse and Women's Crew, as well with the University of Texas at Austin's football program. Apprenticed under Raphael Ruiz of 1-FortyFour-1 studying proper implementation of science based, performance driven training systems. Head coached CrossFit Dupont's program for two years in Washington D.C. Received a Master's in Health Promotion Management from Marymount University in 2010, and has been a coach for Power Athlete since October, 2012.
Tex McQuilkin
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4 Responses to Attacking Limiting Factors: Arch Development

  1. I can’t seem to lift my big toe and flex the four other toes at the same time.
    Any tips?

  2. The penny and pen usage is a new one for me. Towel scrunches are used often in PT clinics. Great article about an often overlooked topic of corrective biomechanics.

  3. @Prebb

    Hey so if you’re still having trouble, best way to start is just working on extending (lifting) the big toe while leaving the other 4 toes down. Then, flex the big toe while lifting the other 4 toes up. It won’t be that easy in the beginning but it’ll get easier as you practice. Remember, the feet can be as nimble as our hands if we work on it enough.

  4. This is a great article. Being in the military and having to be in boots almost everyday seems to destroy my arch. I try and counter this by rolling out my foot and just being concious of my footing inside my boot when im standing. According to the analysis in this article I have a more supinated arch. I personally have never put much thought past rolling out and being concious of how I’m standing footing. This is my first exposure to excercises I can implement to counter and correct my imbalances. Thank you for that.

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