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Intrinsic foot muscle strengthening and athletic performance

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by scotfoot, May 11, 2019.

  1. scotfoot

    scotfoot Well-Known Member

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    Is there any evidence that strengthening the intrinsic foot muscles can improve athletic performance ? Yes ,and in fact it is pretty well documented .

    Here are three abstracts and then their sources -


    [Purpose] The purpose of the present study was to verify the effects of intrinsic foot flexor strength training. [Subjects] The subjects were 12 healthy males without motor system disease. [Methods] A training method that involved flexion of all toe interphalangeal and metatarsophalangeal joints against a 3-kg load was implemented and was performed for 200 repetitions once per day, three times per week, for a period of eight weeks. [Results] Significant changes were observed for intrinsic foot flexor strength scores, foot arches, vertical jumping, 1-legged long jumping, and 50-m dash time. [Conclusion] This muscle strength training method significantly improved muscle strength scores, foot arch shape, and movement performance.

    PART OF ABSTRACT ( From study done at Brigham young university )

    "It was concluded that performance in the vertical jump and shot put can be improved by strengthening the toe and finger muscle flexors at the metatarsophalangeal and metacarpophalangeal joints. "

    Abstract 3
    Abstract The metatarsal phalangeal joint (MPJ) and its crossing toe flexor muscles (TFM) represent the link between the large energy generating leg extensor muscles and the ground. The purpose of this study was to examine the functional adaptability of TFM to increased mechanical stimuli and the effects on walking, running and jumping performance. Fifteen men performed a heavy resistance TFM strength training with 90% of the maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) for 7 weeks (560 contractions) for the left and right foot. Maximal MPJ and ankle plantar flexion moments during MVICs were measured in dynamometers before and after the intervention. Motion analyses (inverse dynamics) were performed during barefoot walking, running, and vertical and horizontal jumping. Athletic performance was determined by measuring jump height and distance. Left (0.21 to 0.38 Nm · kg(-1); P < 0.001) and right (0.24 to 0.40 Nm · kg(-1); P < 0.001) MPJ plantar flexion moments in the dynamometer, external MPJ dorsiflexion moments (0.69 to 0.75 Nm · kg(-1); P = 0.012) and jump distance (2.25 to 2.31 m; P = 0.006) in horizontal jumping increased significantly. TFM responded highly to increased loading within a few weeks. The increased force potential made a contribution to an athlete's performance enhancement.

    SOURCE 1
    Strength Training for the Intrinsic Flexor Muscles of the Foot: Effects on ...

    SOURCE 2
    Improved Performance through Digit Strength Gains: Research ...

    SOURCE 3
    (PDF) The Potential of toe flexor muscles to enhance performance

  2. scotfoot

    scotfoot Well-Known Member

    Further to the above we have another study from Brigham Young University (below ) . It seems to me that the one thing we CAN say about the intrinsic toe flexor muscles of the foot , is that strengthening them will improve athletic performance with regard to sprinting and jumping .


    "The effects of toe and wrist/finger flexor strength training on performance in the 36.58 m (40 yd) dash and baseball throwing velocity was investigated. Sixty-two students, ages 18 to 25, were divided into two treatment groups and a control group. Both treatment groups participated in a 12-week strength program that incorporated all major muscle groups. In addition, group A exercised toe flexors and group B exercised the wrist/finger flexors. Mean pretest to posttest increases in acceleration from 4.57 to 18.29 m (5 to 20 yds) (m · s–2) and in velocity from 18.29 to 36.58 m (20 to 40 yds) (m · s–1) were: treatment group A = 0.025 (2.2 percent) and 0.115 (1.5 percent); treatment group B = 0.004 (0.3 percent) and 0.020 (0.3 percent); control group = −0.015 (−1.3 percent) and −0.118 (−1.5 percent). Mean pretest to posttest increases (m · s–1) in throwing velocity were: treatment group A = 0.885 (3.5 percent), treatment group B = 1.091 (4.29 percent), control group = −0.102 (−0.4 percent). Group A showed significantly greater pretest to posttest increases in accelerationand velocity in the 36.58 m (40 yd) dash than group B and the control group. In baseball throwing velocity both group A and group B increased significantly and the control group had a small decrease from pretest to posttest. Strengthening toe flexors improves performance in the 36.58 m (40 yd) dash, but effects of strengthening finger/wrist flexors and baseball throwing velocity remain to be established. "

    Effect of Toe and Wrist/Finger Flexor Strength Training on A... : The ...


    by TB Adams - ‎1988 - ‎Cited by 14 - ‎Related articlesStrengthening toe flexors improves performance in the 36.58 m (40 yd) dash, but effects of strengthening finger/wrist flexors and baseball throwing velocit
  3. scotfoot

    scotfoot Well-Known Member

    The Digit exerciser was developed at Brigham Young University more than 30 years ago . It is not difficult .

    You put your foot on a plate the end third of which is joined to the rest with transverse hinge . So your foot is flat on the main 2/3 of the plate with the toes on the hinged section and in a dorsiflexed position ( think of your bare foot mostly on the floor of your car but with the toes inclined up onto the accelerator pedal . The hinged section is coupled to some weights by a cable and a pulley so that when you press down with your toes you do so against resistance . The exercise regime generally involves a progression of weights/resistance .

    Who does it work for ? Men and women ,athletes and non athletes . All "recorded very significant strength gains " when they used the device . These gains were then translated into improvements in athletic performance .

    So what happened that this method of exercising the toes disappeared off the radar , and why are far inferior methods being employed today (calf raises ,towel curls ,marble pick ups ) etc ?

    Even at Brigham Young University itself , foot strengthening experiments are being carried out by researchers using comparatively ineffective methods when they must have a few of Professor Bangerter's devices lying about . Would barefoot gains even begin to compare with progressive resistance training gains . Not a chance .

    Again , what happened here ?
    Last edited: May 14, 2019
  4. Stanley

    Stanley Well-Known Member

    This study is the reason:
    The role of muscles in arch support of the foot - An electromyographic study
    • August 1963
    • The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 45(6):1189-1190
    • DOI:
    • 10.2106/00004623-196345060-00006
    Simultaneous electromyography of six muscles in the leg and foot in twenty subjects reveals that only heavy loading elicits muscle activity. Loads of 100 to 200 pounds on one foot are borne easily by passive structures (ligaments and bones) that support the arches. With 400 pounds, the muscles do come into play, but even then many remain inactive. The first line of defense of the arches is ligamentous. The muscles form a dynamic reserve, called upon reflexly by excessive loads, including the take-off phase in walking.

    The problem with the study is the subject was seated and sandbags were place on the knees.
    I have treated pediatric patients with orthoses for years and have not seen much in the change in arch height other than that of the ligaments tightening (I was a clinician at the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine when Herman Tax was there writing his book, so I was in charge of 40 podopediatric patients per day).
    I made a foot exerciser to help my son's athletic ability. He had two kids work out with him. One had a talus that touched the ground when he stood. The other's feet pronated severely on the frontal plane so much so that he couldn't squat without going into a severe genu valgus position. The first kid had an arch in two months (I noticed it when there was a team meeting and it rained outside, so the kids took off their shoes. His wet foot print showed an arch so I looked at his foot and noticed the change) and the other kid could perform a squat in two months with the knees straight.

    They all ran faster, but they were teenagers, so that means nothing. However, one kid went on the football team, and the other two are now pitching on the varsity baseball team with fastballs being their primary pitch.
  5. scotfoot

    scotfoot Well-Known Member

    Stanley ,
    I have always been sceptical that strengthening the foot intrinsics will reduce pronation during walking and see nothing wrong with an orthotic being used to prevent excessive pronation , if it is required . I don't see plantar intrinsic strengthening raising arch height either . I do see strengthening these muscles helping with balance and athletic performance were sprinting ,jumping and turning are required .

    You say you prescribed strengthening exercises for your son and two of his pals and that these had beneficial effects . Do you still prescribe such exercises to your patients on a prehab / rehab basis ?

  6. Stanley

    Stanley Well-Known Member

    Hi Gerry,
    I am retired and I only came up with the device a few years ago for my son. Don't get me wrong I agree that orthoses are great for reducing pronation and its associated symptoms. I just didn't see them change the arch height.
    BTW, there was a book written by John Jesse in 1977. He quoted a study that was done for a doctoral thesis that was unpublished. He found that 5th graders after a period of time (I think it was a few months) improved their vertical jump and sprinting time significantly. https://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Causes-Injury-Prevention-Correction/dp/0870950657

    By the way, I took a picture the cast of his foot for orthoses of his currently well muscled foot. BTW in the digital area, I smoothed the cast in preparation for full length orthoses. Jaden2-1-19LowPixel.jpg

  7. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    How to evaluate and improve foot strength in athletes: an update
    Romain Tourillon et al
    Front. Sports Act. Living | doi: 10.3389/fspor.2019.00046

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