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Flat Feet and Barefoot Training | Boddicker Performance

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Flat Feet and Barefoot Training

by on Jul 7th, 2010

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With my recent forays into the science of barefoot training, I have really not addressed indications or contraindications for beginning higher intensity barefoot work so as not to have deleterious effects on the health of the feet in the long run.  One of the bigger issues is foot posturing and dynamic abilities of the foot.  The hyperpronator with flat feet will be explored first.

Flat feet and barefootedness may mix well if you plan to immediately begin running unshod. In these conditions, the valgus torques on the soft tissues of the feet are far too great to be sustainable in the long run.  Likewise, flat footed people tend to have impaired mechanics of the hallux and little to no Windlass mechanism, limiting the stability of the foot’s MLA.  Add into the equation the possibility that these athletes are holding a pronated foot posture to compensate for a lack of mobility into dorsiflexion, the distal force dissipation strategies will potentiall be inadequqte and we’ll have a distal issue that will lead to more proximal dysfunction.

That said, there is no reason why an athlete cannot begin to do light and infrequent walking or galloping or even strength training in barefoot conditions provided doing so is done intelligently with a concurrent program designed to facilitate the necessary adaptations to safely progress to higher intensity barefoot activities.

Working from the ground up, the primary goal is to first restore mobility and the requisite tissue qualities of the hallux, the subtalar joint, and the talocrural joint.  You’d also be wise to address pelvic posture and the muscles altering the pelvis’s biomechanics.  Those in a lower-crossed posture, for example are going to show up with an anteriorly rotated innominate (0n one or both sides), which is going to contribute to the pronated foot from the top down, and also put the athlete at risk for potential hip dysfunction and labral injury as flexing the hip into an anteriorly rotated innominate mimics the mechanism of the pincer impingement.  Addressing the transverse plane tissues at the hip and at the tibia are also vital to ensure that force attenuation mechanisms are in place more proximally and so that the hip capsule is not attacked during every foot fall due to poor rotational mobility and that the core pendulum can work effectively.  As has been commonly discussed recently, addressing the anterior cervical musculature may be of benefit to reducing muscular restriction limiting foot mobility.

Add stability work as mobility is gained in the form of Janda’s Short Foot exercises that are slowly integrated into higher functional demands like squatting or lunging.  Standing, upper extremity driven exercises are also a great place to reinforce the short foot and stability of the feet and draw the first ray into a better position to extend and flex.  Further stability work can be programed at more proximal joints based on assessment.

Take your time to slowly introduce barefoot training, optimize kinetic chain function, and you’ll benefit greatly in the long term with increased durability.

Carson Boddicker

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Leave a Comment »2 Comments
  • Jim Hansen July 7, 2010

    So last week I was diagnosed with Functional Hallux Limitis which from all that I have read makes sense with all the hip and back problems and imbalance problems I have had for 25+ years. I have been doing minimalistic running for many years now, but that never really helped anything. Would doing a small bit of barefoot running help the FHL or is this just for people with flat feet? and should I get used to always using the insoles I have started wearing as this will be a lifelong thing?

  • Tarun Suri July 8, 2010


    I was told that with a collapsed arch, I would never be able to regain proper hallux position and mechanics. Because of this, I took a top down approach: increase mobility of the hip to get my knees to finally track parallel to my feet, which gives me a small amount of arch.

    is this statement correct, or should I indeed follow a bottom top approach? I honesty, don<t know what I can do with my hallux, it just won't budge due to hallux valgus.

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