When weight is transferred correctly through the foot and ankle during activities like walking, running and squatting, the foot and ankle should roll inwards (i.e., evert) and flex forward (i.e., dorsiflex). However, when a person overpronates the foot and ankle collapses toward the midline of the body limiting dorsiflexion and the correct transfer of weight into the foot. This collapsing prevents one of the major muscles that support the medial longitudinal arch of the foot (i.e., flexor hallucis longus) from working correctly, and as a result, the foot/ankle collapses even further. This movement toward the midline (i.e., overpronation) can cause stress and pain to the ankle, knee, hip and lower back as these structures also collapse inwards following the motion of the foot.
Activation and strengthening of the muscle that holds up the medial longitudinal arch (i.e., flexor hallucis longus) can prevent overpronation, support the foot and ankle and reduce stress to all the structures of the lower kinetic chain. Below is a simple, yet effective exercise you can integrate into your daily activities and workouts to strengthen this muscle and help prevent one of the major causes of foot, ankle, knee, hip and back pain.
BIG TOE PUSHWDOWNS
Stand with your feet facing forward and raise the arches of your feet (i.e., roll your weight gently toward the outside of your feet) to create a neutral position for the feet and ankles. Align all of your toes so they are straight and press the big toe down toward the floor without “scrunching” the other toes. As you push the big toe down you should feel the muscles that runs under the arch of your foot activate. Hold this contracted position for 5 to 10 seconds, relax and repeat for 3 to 6 times every day to strengthen the muscles that helps hold up the medial longitudinal arch.
(Note: This exercise is part of The BioMechanics Method Corrective Exercise Specialist Certification program and is an integral part of retraining the entire kinetic chain to prevent the causes of musculoskeletal dysfunction and recurring muscle/joint pain).