Feet of Strength

feet on diving board
Tara Moore / Getty Images

The brands who make shoes and apparel with big marketing and advertising budgets might have convinced you that you need to wear certain shoes to reach your optimal sports performance. Or, without their special athletic shoes, you have no chance of being your best you.

But is that really true?

Do you need a particular shoe on your feet to get your body to work the way it is designed to?

While it’s important to select shoes that are comfortable and meet your standards for style and function, don’t neglect something even more important for providing your best physical performance— your feet.

Foot Anatomy

Feet have a complex anatomy. Together, each foot and ankle consist of 26 bones and 33 joints, all integrated with and supported by muscles, tendons, cartilage, ligaments, and bursae. These parts function together to help us run, walk, jump and stand. A weakness or injury that interferes with the way the feet and ankles are supposed to function will negatively impact movement performance.

Everything Starts with Your Feet

All athletic movements, and most movements in daily life, start in the feet. If you want to improve your performance with kettlebells or any other form of exercise, don’t look for a better shoe. Look first to strengthen your feet.

This is not an anti-shoe campaign. I don’t think it’s practical, realistic, safe, or hygienic to simply throw away all your shoes and go barefoot everywhere. Those of us who are city-dwellers, which includes most of the global population, move around on hard, rigid, flat 2-dimensional surfaces such as floors and sidewalks.

The paved modern, urban world is nothing like the dirt, sand, or grass that early man walked upon. The first shoes were to give protection against harsh ground, rock, brush and other painful objects that would damage the delicate, but highly sophisticated feet.

Over time, through generations of wearing ever more developed modern shoes over the course of a lifetime, the feet in most modern humans tend to be weak and underdeveloped.

By all means, if you live a beach lifestyle and choose to move about barefoot everywhere, I won’t knock it. I personally like to move around barefoot as much as I can. However, that usually does not extend beyond my own home and property. Most people have to wear shoes most of the time and barefoot is not always an option.

However, strengthening your feet is an option available to everyone that has feet.

Strengthening Your Feet

This is not a diagnosis or treatment, the message is simple—pay attention to your feet. There are no shoes that can do the work of the feet better than the feet can, and if you have weakness in the feet, you can likely strengthen them. 

For general foot health and strengthening, my preferred method for myself and most people is to perform simple squatting motions while standing barefoot on a BOSU. How you position yourself is important so that you ingrain good movement habits. Loading the posterior chain of the body is the go-to athletic readiness position.

If you are using the new BOSU Elite model, it’s easier to find your athletic stance, because you simply keep your toes behind the Power Line, thereby assuring you have the correct weight distribution. If you have the original BOSU model, make sure to position your toes behind the midline, that would divide the dome into upper and lower halves so that when you stand on top, the heels drop below the level of the toes.

Every movement you make, whether athletic in nature or simple daily activities, begins in the feet, so pay attention to their health and function.