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You already work out your arms, legs, chest, etc.—but there’s a body part you’ve almost certainly overlooked in your training, and it’s one of the most important of all: your feet. In almost any activity you do, your feet are your foundation. They provide the balance and support for nearly all movement, so any lack of mobility and strength in your feet can compromise your ability to run, jump, lift, and even walk efficiently and pain-free. Start treating your feet like all your other muscle groups and build a bedrock of strength, agility, and performance.
Approximately one-quarter of the bones in the body are in the feet. That means 33 joints per foot need to remain mobile for your body to move optimally.
For example, “the big toe plays a vital role in the body’s forward propulsion,” says Perry Nickelston, D.C., owner of stopchasingpain.com. “It needs to extend to 65 degrees”—most people he’s examined are at only about 45 degrees, he says—“or you can’t propel your body with optimal hip extension, thoracic rotation, and glute max activation. Other muscles and joints must work harder to compensate, and the result is often fatigue, poor performance, pain, and injury.”
The ankle is included in the foot complex as well. A study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that restricted ankle mobility predisposed subjects to overuse injuries.
Finally, if you have flat feet, foot training is a must. Fallen arches cause the feet to roll inward toward the midline of the body, knocking joints out of alignment and setting you up for knee and hip pain.