By Samantha Olson
Kick off your shoes and walk around barefooted to experience some of the underappreciated benefits of strong feet. As part of their ongoing research, experts from Ithaca College’s School of Health Sciences and Performance recently highlighted the important role the “often overlooked” muscles in the feet play in improving stability, balance, posture, and prevent common injuries, similar to the abdomen.
“If you say ‘core stability,’ everyone sucks in their belly button,” said Patrick McKeon, a professor at the department of Exercise and Sports Sciences at Ithaca College, in a press release. Instead, McKeon wants people to shift their attention to their “foot core,” by investing time in working on their feet as much as their core muscles in the abdomen.
Our feet work on a feedback cycle, McKeon says. From the large muscles in the feet and legs to the small muscles in the feet, each sends messages to the brain about the environment. When these messages get disrupted, injuries arise as another muscle group tries to compensate for the miscommunication. Shoes typically set off these problems, as walking, running, dancing, cycling, or skipping force these muscles to absorb the body’s impact. If the foot’s small muscles miscommunicate or fail to send information up to the brain, the large muscles end up compensating. They overexert themselves, which ultimately leads to injury.