The foot is often overlooked by medical professionals and trainers. The foot can be a common cause of problems in other areas of the body. Biomechanics of the foot can be complex; however if assessed with video analysis, looking at joint play within the foot and how the muscles are coordinated to control the foot, then often the problem can be identified.
I have treated a runner who developed groin pain because he developed a stiff first toe (big toe). He was a 100m sprinter which involved rapid bursts out of the blocks and ten seconds of very intense running. Over time the big toe created abnormal ankle movement which led to knee, hip, pelvic and lower back pain. The weakest link among all these joints was his groin. The groin pain affected him so badly he could no longer compete for that season.
Another illustration is someone who has had a previous ankle injury and the ankle joint is stiff. When comparing the right and left sides they can see that one side of their body has less ankle movement when they squat. The restriction in the ankle will create abnormal knee and hip motion and have consequences on the pelvis and lumbar spine. The ankle joint can be a difficult joint to increase mobility. To keep the improved range of motion often requires regular home stretching. Sometimes a Physiotherapist is required to help return normal joint play to the smaller joints within the foot.
The foot and ankle are made up of an array of small and long bones; these bones all have to work in a coordinated fashion to enable the ankle joint to move correctly. It is the job of the physiotherapist and trainer to identify where these smaller restrictions may be – where they affect or present as generalised pain in other parts of the body.
Clinically, if the ankle has been fractured or sprained there can be restrictions due to a poor healing process. If the restriction has come on with no trauma then maybe the ankle has been restricted over time due to myofascial restrictions throughout the foot and ankle. The latter can be corrected much more quickly. When a client has on-going assessment by their personal trainer and Physiotherapist myofascial restrictions like this can be easily identified, especially in the foot but also throughout the rest of the body.
The foot and ankle are the first parts of the body to connect with the ground when walking, standing, running. Before training, it is important that the foot and ankle have normal range of motion to prevent injury.