FROM YOUR TOES TO YOUR NOSE*- Barefoot Training for Athletic Performance


*Disclaimer- Ok soooooo I might have lied, I’m not actually going to tell you how to train your nose….. But seen as you’re here, Bare with me!! (get it??) and have a little read through, I promise you’ll take something away from it that’ll benefit your training!!

For most people we rarely give our feet a second thought. They’re there at the end of our legs. We walk around on them and that’s that!

Or is it??

Think about it, if we play sport we use them to run, jump, twist and turn, kick a football or another person (if we’re into combat sports). We use the foot to balance, stabilise the knee and hip etc.

More importantly, for athletic performance we depend on the feet to continually accept, develop and direct force through the ground up through our body rapidly and explosively.

Still think our feet are “just there”??


We have 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles in each foot.

The most important point I’m going to put across here is this..

Our feet are our only contact with the ground

When we walk we put a force of up to 1.5 x bodyweight through each foot ON EVERY SINGLE STEP.

This force can go as high as 3-4 x bodyweight when we run, jump and land.

Now multiply that out over the number of times you do that in a competitive game or fight or even a training session, that’s a lot of load on a very small area! Repeat this day in day out over a number of weeks, months and years!

Starting see why you should be paying more attention to your feet??

Feet are the first link in the kinetic chain and our only contact with the ground. They dictate the position of the ankle, knee and hip and so are the first place we can have a “kink” or leak in that transfer of power up through the body. Yet when we have a problem somewhere further up the chain we bypass them and look straight away to the hips, glutes or core for the solution.

Now I’m not saying they’re not contributing to or even causing the issue in some circumstances but surely something has to be said for having a look at what’s going on below the ankle.

For example

Low arches can lead to

  • pain on the inside of the knee
  • weak glutes (limited control of external rotation of the hips)
  • can also contribute to low back pain

High arches can lead to

  • -weakness on the outside of the ankle (tendency to “roll” the ankle)
  • -Pain on the outside of the knee (IT Band)
  • -Limited control of internal rotation of the hips (crucial for sports performance)

It’s not just the arches that can cause problems, lack of mobility in the big toe and ankle can affect how we walk and run too, the little video below explains this in more detail!

Look at this way, if you had a really high end, finely tuned sports car and put your old second hand tyres on it you wouldn’t blame the engine when the car skids off the road and crashes would you?? So why when an athlete breaks down do we ignore the feet and look elsewhere to fix the problem??

How do we go about training our feet??

If we have muscle imbalance or mobility issues in any other part of the body they can lead to injury. The foot is exactly the same in this regard the only major difference with the foot is that it bears the weight of the entire body. So any small issue in the foot can be magnified and transferred directly up the chain with catastrophic results.

The foot is essentially a tripod with 2 points on the ball of the foot and one point on the heel with the arches running between these 3 points.

When we’re on our feet, whether we’re standing still, lifting weights in the gym, walking, running, kicking etc the foot is constantly playing a balancing game between these 3 points on the tripod. It’s important to remember this when we get into the exercises as we’re constantly trying to feel what’s going on with the tripod as we put the foot through different movements.

If we lack strength in the muscles of the foot & calf we can lose the integrity of the arches ALSO if we lack mobility in the toes or movements of the ankle joint it can be very difficult to use the tripod effectively. So with this in mind let’s have a look at how we can address these problems

The 3 most basic exercises to start with (and ones we use with athletes and clients every day) are as follows

  • 1 – Toe Raises  – Mobility and Strength of the big toe
  • 2 – Arch Squeezes – Integrity of the longitudinal arch of the foot (the main arch we all know)
  • 3 – Ankle Rocks – Dorsifelxion and plantarflexion of the ankle joint

The video below will take you through step by step on how to do each of these exercises!

For more advanced exercises check out the video below!!

If you’re interested in developing your athletic potential from the ground up with Doolin Performance click here, fill the contact form and we’ll get back to you to book a free consultation and screening session.