Foot Intrinsics and Proprioception:
How much contact do you have with the ground? I mean it! How much of you touches the ground at any given part of the day? You could possibly think about when you lay down then the answer is quite a bit, from your head to the heels of your feet the brain is picking up a lot of sensations from pressure sensors all over the body. What about when you are walking or playing sports? Usually only one or two feet have any physical contact to the ground when preforming most activities. This creates a high demand of information to be sent to the brain from only one to two feet.
When preforming sports or movement while on the feet, the body’s relationship with the ground has a high importance to achieve movement and overall function. After all, apart from the eyes, the feet are the only information gathering pieces the brain can work with. The brain picks up information conducted through the feet via nerves that specialize in something called proprioception.
Proprioception is a term we use for the brain’s ability to gather information from pressure sensors in the skin and interpret where the body is in space. Like muscles in the body this information gathering system can be trained and optimized to give the brain faster and more consistent information to work with. The more information gathered from proprioception allows the body to react faster and utilize proper muscular chains for activity rather than injury causing compensation patterns.
Putting it all together, if we have better proprioception (more information) and have stronger muscles in the feet (foot intrinsics) the body is able to react faster with more stability when going from one foot to the other. The brain can receive messages from the world around it and send messages back to the body at a faster rate so it has more time to make small corrections in the muscles during activity. For the athlete, this could mean increased performance and for the everyday weekend warrior this could mean finally getting rid of that pesky knee pain from high school.
Below are a few videos on how to better strengthen foot intrinsic properties and increase proprioception in the feet. Just five short minutes each day spent consistently on increasing the intrinsic power of the feet can help you achieve a more active you and getting back to what you love to do pain free. For the more nerdy types out there, linked below is a few of the latest research detailing the properties and activation of proprioception.
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Zhang X, Schütte KH, Vanwanseele B.Foot muscle morphology is related to center of pressure sway and control mechanisms during single-leg standing. Gait Posture. 2017 Sep;57:52-56. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2017.05.027. Epub 2017 May 25.
Engelhart D, Pasma JH, Schouten AC, Aarts RG, Meskers CG, Maier AB, van der Kooij H. Adaptation of multijoint coordination during standing balance in healthy young and healthy old individuals. J Neurophysiol. 2016 Mar;115(3):1422-35. doi: 10.1152/jn.00030.2015. Epub 2015 Dec 30.