As part of my Team Over The Top (TOTT) run training programme, I incorporate a number of focused footwork drills to:
- strengthen the feet muscles, tendons and ligaments to better activate the whole running muscle chain
- square up the body especially from the hips and pelvic girdle to better lock in my Squat/Scoot style of safe, efficient running
- encourage the body to brace against the negative downward force of gravity from the mid chest to the calves
- provide a solid foundation for those who wish to transition to full-on BAREFOOT running (none of my runners wear what I call “full-on coffins” but almost all of them wear what is commonly referred to today as “minimalist footwear”. A few DO run full-on barefoot with NO injury issues)
By doing so every week during our technical run sessions, all of my TOTT and private client runners stay away from avoidable running injuries. This allows them to train more effectively to achieve their running goals. As such, I recommend ALL of you fit some, if not all, of the following drills into your run training – YEAR ROUND! The following are not ALL of my foot-strengthening drills but do include some of the key ones:
- side 1/2 squat crossover to strengthen feet, calves and hip adductors
- internal and external hip rotations to open up pelvic girdle and strengthen synergistic muscles of the feet for better balance
- forward knee lift with forceful paw-back to activate hip flexors and lock in a foot landing point just behind the knees. This helps fight the negative downward force of gravity
- quick step with heel flick to strengthen foot arches and calves, protect the Achilles tendons and improve foot turnover for speed and efficiency
- high side leg lift with 1/2 squat to activate all foot muscles and protect against excessive pronation and supination that can lead to ‘itis’ injuries. This also necessitates bracing from the chest to the calves to maintain a squared up, safe running body position
- forward crossover step with 1/2 squat alternating lead foot to strengthen the instep muscles of the feet and prevent plantar fasciitis issues. This also encourages bracing from the chest to keep the upper body in line over the hips for a more efficient forward run drive action
- side to side forward shift. The key is to get the body in line over the support leg during each forward shift. This develops the hip adductors and abductors along with the rest of the running muscle chain. It also translates into safer, more powerful ‘normal’ forward running
You only need a flat surface of not more than 20 metres to do all of the above drills. You also do NOT need any equipment – just you and some sort of surface. In other words, there is NO excuse to avoid these as part of your running regime. The time commitment is minimal (5 to 7 minutes total before each run) but the positive result for safe, efficient running IS significant.
Here’s to you following the old coach’s simple drills – especially the barefoot runners amongst you!