Strong feet for a strong base

This month I’m going to continue where I left off with the sexy calves – let’s take a look at what’s at the end of those nice strong legs you’ve built this past month.

If you’re new into training, one of the first things you should learn is to use your feet. And what I mean by that is start using those small bones and muscles that most of us take for granted. 

One of the first things I heard when I took my first Kettlebell seminar many years ago, was ‘grip the ground with your toes and press down as you do the swing’. 

To my surprise many of the strong guys, who would lift double their weight in deadlift, looked a little puzzled, as they were trying to follow the directions. These gym rats, who were used to lifting weights like they were cupcakes and lived in the locker room and ate protein bars and chicken for breakfast, struggled a little with this. They weren’t used to training barefooted, and all of a sudden – for once – my decade walking the wooden floors in the local taekwondo club wasn’t working against me. As I ventured into the world of lifting, pressing and pulling – it was working for me.

One of the first things you need to control when you learn how to kick is to use the one foot you stand and pivot on, while kicking with your other leg. I had learned how to grip with my toes, land on my heel or forefoot, kick with my toes pointing forwards or bend backwards – and now I could also use my foot control for this, to lift better kettlebells with correct form.

But what if you’re not into lifting kettlebells or other weight equipment? Or into barefoot (martial arts) sports – what can you use your strong feet for, you might ask. 

Well for one, running barefoot in the sand, grass or just about anywhere will be much more fun,. Also if you do get into running, you might spare yourself some ache and pain. Strong feet can help the rest of your legs to do their job better, and while they don’t prevent injuries, they do help make the chain stronger. Strong ankles help to stabilise knees and hips, as opposed to weak limbs, that often causes other joints to overwork. 

What I am saying is basically: There’s everything to gain and nothing to lose, by giving your feet a little attention.

So if you haven’t had any barefoot training and rarely walk barefooted other than to and from your bathroom, you can try these two simple exercises:

1. Walk with your toes 

The first time I encountered this exercise was when I was training in Las Vegas with Master Toddy (fight girls). It was the first thing he asked me to show him – not a punch, not a kick – but this walk across the floor by using my toes only. He wanted to see my root strength. Since then I have learned this is also an exercise elite runners use to strengthen their feet, ankles and legs.

This exercise is best done on an even surface, whether this is carpet, wood floor or a kind of mat. Stand barefooted and start using your toes as small claws that reach forward and pull the rest of the foot (and you) with them. Be mindful that it is only your toes that make you move. It’s easy to slide your foot across the floor, using your leg as the moving point. 

Walk with your toes for one to two metres, a couple of times, whenever you feel like strengthening your foot.

2.Raise your arch

A strong arch means a springy foot that can jump, dance and run without problems. As we grow older and more inactive even a beautiful curvy arch can fall a little flat and thus start to cause problems both in the foot and further up the chain (in other leg joints). 

To raise your arch, stand barefooted on a flat surface. Put a pencil, measure tape or book at the end of your toes so you can see how long your foot is. Retract your toes as much as possible from your end point (book, tape etc) without curling and clawing them. (So don’t use the technique described above). Find the strength to retract your toes from the arch of your foot instead.

I’ve started to do both these exercises once a week, once every two week. If your feet are weak, it’s something you can put into your weekly training schedule once or twice, but if your feet a fine, just doing it a couple of times a month will keep them strong. 

I will hopefully have a little video of the exercises on my Instagram during the first two weeks of September, so please check in if you have trouble doing this – or feel free to write me: As usual comments and critique are welcome.

Tania Presutti

Tania Presutti is a Danish freelance journalist and fitness professional who now resides in Clonakilty.

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