Dancing on my toes

Functional Footwear for Healthy Strength Training

If you're planning on developing muscle mass and strength, then weight training is certainly the way forward. However, it's not just as simple as turning up to the gym and grabbing the heaviest pair of dumbbells you can find. A lot of thought and preparation needs to go into your posture and lifting technique and, as any good podiatrist will tell you, your footwear and lower body flexibility. Ensuring your body has a solid base from the ground up can reduce the risk of knee and ankle problems, whilst helping to protect your back in a variety of different ways.

The Best Footwear

Appropriate footwear can make all the difference to your overall lifting technique, especially when doing fundamental exercises like deadlifts and squats. The key to completing these types of exercises properly is to push through the heels and minimise the pressure on the pads of the foot, which can lead to patella pain just under the knee. Having a pair of hi-top baseball shoes or dedicated cross-trainers will really help with this as they have flat solid bases that enable you to utilise the toes for stabilisation. Unfortunately, whilst they're great for absorbing impact, running trainers fail to provide the same foundation because of the cushioning that is used in the sole.

When lifting, the body's centre of gravity shifts because of the offset weight, which in turn alters the pressure on the bottom of the foot. When the pressure moves to the outer edge of the trainer, the cushioning compresses and can cause the ankle to begin to roll. When the ankle rolls, the muscles work overtime to stabilise the foot, and this can lead to muscular irritation. Having this stable base can also affect the lumbar (lower) region of the back. If weight allocation is disproportionate across the foot, the muscles in the back known as the erector spinae work hard to pull the upper body back up to avoid hunching. 


To maintain flexibility in the foot and stop you from tipping forward when squatting, try to lengthen the muscles in the calves, hamstrings and glutes. It's easy to do this, just allocate five to ten minutes at the end of your workout to stretching by holding each muscle under tension for 15-30 seconds, increasing the stretch half way through. You could also try including some myofascial release using a foam roller, rolling over the back of the legs, which can release tension under the foot too.