We’re all aware of the internet carrying a plethora of polarized and poorly addressed topics, feet and shoes being one of them. One camp is shouting, “Be barefoot and a minimalist!” The other camp is screaming, “Wear your shoes for support!” And quite frankly, both sides stand their ground (pun intended) and have good points to be made.
This is why I wanted to bring on Coach Lance Goyke to sit down and have a well-rounded conversation surrounding your feet and what types of shoes you should be wearing because I can promise you your answer(s) will be context dependent. A few points we unpack are the foot and ankle joint and why it’s the most complex joint in your body, different types of shoes and which may be best for you and your goals, and specific circumstances for when it’s appropriate to be barefoot and when supported shoes might be more beneficial. Listen in as Lance and I lay out a handful of strategies to help with the strength and awareness of your feet and ways you can utilize them in your lifting.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- [05:59] Why the foot is the most complex joint in the body
- [10:15] The importance of having 80 degrees of toe extension for maintaining mobility
- [15:06] Some of the most common places where things start to go wrong at the foot with relation to gait
- [17:11] Compression and how it can limit your mobility
- [18:01] How the joint position affects the way the joint works
- [19:03] Footwear’s purpose when talking about walking
- [21:22] Why you don’t want the middle of your foot to bend
- [22:39] Going through gait when in supination
- [24:28] Why running barefoot could be beneficial in certain circumstances
- [26:41] Potential consequences for those who are never barefoot
- [30:55] Specific circumstances you should get barefoot versus having support
- [33:17] An exercise to help with the strength and awareness of your feet
- [35:10] What’s getting in the way and limiting dorsiflexion in most people
- [37:49] Specific exercises to utilize for improving dorsiflexion
- [39:47] Special cases for those outside of the bell curve
James Cerbie: I actually have not spent as much time on it personally. I know it’s important. And this is one where I’ve just really kind of deferred to other people.
Lance Goyke: This is one I’ve kind of, like, taken for granted ahead and figured out, and I haven’t really thought about it for the last six years. So this will be an interesting parsing through my memories and brain.
James Cerbie: Yes, I’m in a similar position right now. I’m going to go on and do a podcast with Mike Doehla from StrongerU. I’m excited because we’re going to talk about aging, health, longevity, and stuff like that because that’s what I studied in grad school at a very in the weeds level. And I’ve just been kind of going on afternoon walks on the trails with Kelsey, sitting there floating around like, okay, I’m trying to rekindle all this stuff that I had so ingrained five years ago at this point. Like, okay, we got to really remember this really deep self physiology because those are some of the things we’re probably going to start to trickle into when we have these conversations. So I’m like, all right, brain, here we go. Get it going. But it’s slowly coming back. It’s like going out and dusting the shelves off.
Lance Goyke: Yeah.
James Cerbie: Excellent. All right, listeners, thank you so much for being here. You’re a minute and 20 seconds. I’m potentially wondering what in the world we’re going to be doing today. Today will probably be on the shorter end, but I think it’s still going to be really beneficial and we’re going to be talking about feet and we’re going to be talking about shoes, because this is still a topic that we get questions on, and it’s still a topic that I think it’s still really pretty polarized on the Internet. So we’re going to do our best to try to have a really objective conversation around this because you still have the people who are super minimalist. You got to be barefoot all the time. And then there’s obviously a different camp of like, well, that may not be the smartest thing in the world. You may need more supportive shoes, blah, blah, blah, blah. So we want to try to have a conversation to help you understand the landscape of being barefoot, be minimalist, no shoes, wear shoes. What may be the right choice for you? What’s maybe the key data points, if you will, or frameworks that you can use to make a better decision for yourself in this realm as opposed to just, like being bare.
I saw some dude the other day running on pavement barefoot. Yeah, I saw that all the time in Salt Lake. That was a big thing in Salt Lake. And I’m like, really, bro, how bad do your feet and knees hurt? Right? And then with lifting as well, right. There are a lot of people like, oh, bro, you got to squat barefoot, and then you watch people squat barefoot, and it’s like that is a train wreck. I don’t even know what I would describe it as. So let’s wrangle this in here. Let’s start with the foundation. So maybe if you can give us a primer on the foot and kind of what we’re looking at with the feet.
Why the Foot is the Most Complex Joint in the Body
Lance Goyke: I think that’s a good place to start. So simple enough, the foot is probably the most complex joint in the body because it’s I don’t know the actual number, but it’s a couple of dozen joints in each foot. There are tons of bones. We call them tarsals or metatarsals or phalanges. And they all kind of play into the mobility and more importantly, the stability as well of the foot. Even the ankle is actually two joints. So there’s a lot of parts here. I suppose if we start from the top, the top of the foot, I mean, we’ve got the Shin bone, you’ve got the big weight bearing, takes 95% of your body weight. It’s called the tibia. And then you got this extraneous one on the outside that we say is not very important but is actually super important. It’s called the fibula. The fibula is where your lateral hamstring connects. That helps control the orientation of the foot, helps you point your toes forward. So what we need, what’s the number? I want to say we need 35 degrees of dorsiflexion. I just looked this up for my squat video. So I think it’s that 35 degrees of dorsiflexion, which means if I’m squatting and this is in the closed chain, so my foot is down on the ground, my heel needs to stay down.
And more importantly, this is something that we miss when we coach visually only. And you’re not kind of like listening to your body, but the pressure of your ground reaction force needs to go through your heel. Your heel still needs to be weight bearing. You can get 35 degrees of dorsiflexion, but be on your toes or the ball of your feet and you’re closing down the mobility that you have not only in your ankle, but also in your hip and your overload in your back, all sorts of stuff. So we need 35 degrees of dorsiflexion. You also need to be able to pronate and supinate. Pronate to me is simplified by just saying pronate is flattening your foot and supinating is rolling it outward. So if you’re about to have an ankle sprain like a traditional ankle sprain, you’re supinating. You’re on the edge, the outside edge of your foot. And if you’re pronating, we say, oh, I have flat feet. We talk about the brain and we talk about sensation a lot. We talk about just kind of being aware of your body and what it’s doing in order for the foot to work.
The Importance of Having 80 Degrees of Toe Extension for Maintaining Mobility
In order for the body and the hip and everything to work, your foot needs to know where it is. So it’s important that you have I simplify it with three points of contact with the foot on the ground. You’ve got the base of the big toe, the base of the Pinky toe, and then the heel. A lot of the weight needs to go through the heel because that’s directly compressing the ankle joint. If I put a lot of weight on the ball of the foot, then I have a lot of torque at the ankle. My calf gets really active that kicks my back on and can cause some other issues. Not that you can squat that way. You’re just really increasing the shear forces that you need when you do that. So do that. Keep that in mind. At least that’s more of an advanced technique. Know the rules before you break them. So we need to be able to pronate, we need to be able to supinate. And then the last thing that we really need is 80 degension. I say we need that because I have one person that I train with perpetual turf toe only.
He does squats and he does rear foot elevated squats. That’s everything. And then I have another guy whose toe is fused and he doesn’t have that. So it’s like for those people, I’m going to expect walking to kind of mess you up because you need that toe extension for walking just super-fast on that one.
James Cerbie: Is that big toes specific or is that all toes?
Lance Goyke: I would say it’s big toes specific.
James Cerbie: The thing I don’t have.
Lance Goyke: I would say it’s big, so specific, the rest of them are going to follow, but you’re going to put more pressure through that big toe. So it’s more important that you maintain that mobility. And sometimes people have that mobility, but it’s just like the ankle, right, because you have the dorsiflexion and movement where the toe comes up away from the ground. Like if the foot stayed down, the toe would come up away from the ground. If that step, the heel comes up with, the toe stays on the ground, it’s the same movement. If I have a lot of toe flexor activity, that’s the toe muscles on the underside of the foot, I get a lot of compression through the toe joint and that just doesn’t feel good. There’s this perception that turf toe, which is common in American football, but there’s this perception that turf toe is like, it’s a small joint. So why is that even a problem? Can’t you just play through that? You played through your ACL tear. ACLs do a lot less and more importantly, they feel a lot less than toes do. So if we look at this diagram of the brain called the homunculus.
It’s this crazy looking. I picture a sculpture of the human body where the hands are super big. The feet are super big and the head is super big because that’s where most of our brain is dedicated to feeling like we might be able to feel how we do a squat, but you can really feel when someone’s tickling your foot.
James Cerbie: Yeah. Here you go. Hold on. I got some images pulled up here because we can get fancy. I can screen share some stuff on here. So people listening, feel free to hop over to the YouTube where you can kind of actually visually see what we’re doing here.
Lance Goyke: Where do I click to subscribe? I’ve been pushing YouTube.
James Cerbie: Here we go. It should pop up. Give me a second here. We got the homunculus. This guy is pretty baller looking.
Lance Goyke: Baller. It may be the way he kind of looks like Allison’s watching Harry Potter right now.
James Cerbie: It kind of looks like that’s a phenomenal reference. That is a great reference.
Lance Goyke: Oh, man. Now I can’t understand.
James Cerbie: There it is. Here’s our humongous guy. Yeah. Massive hands. You look at that lower lip.
Lance Goyke: Yeah. I didn’t realize that one tongue was sticking out. Really feel the tongue.
James Cerbie: This is kind of what I always think of it. Like this image here where like a kind of like foot and hand and all that sort of thing going on. I hadn’t seen these little creatures before.
Lance Goyke: My internship in undergrad was in a motor control lab. So the professor that I spent a lot of time with, he’s really into this. He’s also the strongest person I’ve ever known. So that’s funny. So homunculus is interesting. That sensation is important. So you’ve got to make sure the foot knows where it’s at, and you’ve got to make sure you have the requisite mobility. And then anything after that is like gravy. You can get extra running speed out of toe flexor strength. You probably shouldn’t spend your time there. But that was a whole article the late Charles Poloquin wrote about. He put weights on a towel and he would curl his toe towards his body or he would have his athletes do that as runners. It’s a long lever, so if you maximize that, that’s probably pretty good. I would think that I would definitely get turf toe if I did that. I don’t know. Was that a sufficient overview?
James Cerbie: Yeah, overview.
Lance Goyke: I didn’t even say sub taller.
Some of the Most Common Places Where Things Start to Go Wrong at the Foot with Relation to Gait
James Cerbie: I was very impressed you managed to stay away from being taller. But I think that a lot of the stuff at the foot can relate back to gait. Right. Because I think that’s kind of the framework of the foundation that we work off of. We kind of think about gait where humans were meant to have gait. We’re meant to walk, Peel ourselves through space. And I think that’s often maybe the easiest place to start. Sometimes when you think about the function of the foot and the different things that you just described, what we want to have happening at the foot, we can often look at them like, okay, well, what is happening during gait? Because that’s where we’re going to spend the vast majority of our time up on our feet, hopefully walking around. People listen to this. I’m assuming you’re on your feet walking around throughout the day, not sitting all the time. But when you think about it, let me see the best way to phrase this. Where are some of the most common places where things begin to go wrong at the foot of the foot? Let’s just start with the basic date, because you described what we need.
Lance Goyke: The first thing that I would say is you have too much activity. I mentioned it in the intro there briefly. But if I really compress the joint, I’m going to lose its mobility. It’s got to stay relaxed if I’m going to feel all of its mobility. You shouldn’t. The fastest runners or walkers, even like race walking, don’t try 100% all of the time because if they try 100% all the time, they get too stiff and they don’t conserve their energy well enough. And they don’t utilize the connective tissues like the tendons and the stretch reflex from all of that. So you can look at running as well. To compare it to gait, though, running in water.
James Cerbie: There’s a railroad behind our house. We didn’t even know it was actually still in service, but there was a very small steam engine that just went down that railroad.
Lance Goyke: Is this the first time?
James Cerbie: Yeah, the very first time.
Lance Goyke: It’s been a month.
James Cerbie: That’s right. More than two months.
Lance Goyke: Okay.
James Cerbie: That’s what our neighbor said. Our neighbor said that was going to come in maybe like two or three times a year. That was very short. Okay, cool. Because we confirmed that I’m not buying this Dang house. It’s like I’m going to have a train coming down those train tracks in the middle of the night. No, it’s like a super old steam engine. Comes like two to three times a year. It’s actually an activity. When it comes people come out of the house to look at it because it doesn’t happen that frequently. Okay.
Compression and How it Can Limit Your Mobility
Lance Goyke: I just feel like I’ve been derailed off the train tracks, feet and walking, and then the compression of the we are talking about compression limiting your mobility. To me, that’s the first thing. And that’s why hip mobility. There are people who talk a lot about the feet, and I agree that the feet are important. I think it’s more likely that something up the chain is causing your issue down the chain. I don’t think a lot of people and it could still be like an 80-20 split. 20% is still one in five, but I don’t think a lot of people have the problem stemming from the foot. I have seen people who have the problem stemming from the foot, but most of the time it’s a muscle activity issue. The other component of that is I think it’s easier to just explain it like that. But the other component of that is we say, Arthur Kinematics, how does the joint position affect how the joint works? And walking is a great example of the world in front of me. So my brain is going to Orient that way. And if my hip doesn’t have internal rotation when I extend my leg, my toes are going to have to turn out.
I’m going to roll over the inside of my foot, and I might develop a bunion on the inside of my big toe. That’s a really clear example of how I’m limited somewhere. My body is going to have to compensate. And that type of person never gets dorsiflexion when they take their steps. They never get dorsiflexion in late midstance, so they don’t need it. And when they come to, I don’t know, squats, they’re going to be a very hip dominant squatter. They’re going to bend over a lot. They’re going to really identify with the vertical Shin squatting just because they can’t handle it. Otherwise.
James Cerbie: Where does footwear come into this conversation?
Footwear’s Purpose When Talking About Walking
Lance Goyke: There’s a couple pieces of this I would say. First, if we’re talking about walking footwear serves the purpose to level the playing field, level the ground, literally. If I have a foot that’s prone to rolling outward, right, I need something that’s going to help it not roll outward. So I’m going to need some support on the lateral surface of the shoe so I don’t roll through it. And I’m going to need some sort of sensation on the inside part of the foot that is higher up than I would normally expect because my foot can’t get down to the ground. So I need to bring the ground up to it. I think that makes a lot of sense because then I can promote that big toe, Pinky toe or base of the big toe, base of the Pinky toe and heal three points of contact in the foot. I can give that Homunculus sensation. Right. So that’s the first part of shoe footwear. The other part you have to consider is this a structural problem or is this a functional problem? Do you just not know how to control your foot? Have you not done your hip mobility stuff?
Then you might not need orthotics from a Hamilton orthodontist Podiatrist. You might not need orthotics from a Podiatrist. There was a little slip there. That was funny. Maybe that’s what I meant for the dynasty. You might not need sir, my image is so hot here. I gotta turn this down. It’s bothering me. You might not need the hard, insole kind of thing. And the person at the shoe store might not be able to help you, even if they’re educated in their brand of shoes. So first you have to promote sensation when you’re walking, promote a level playing field. The other part of that is you have to appreciate how we talked about anatomy already, but you have to appreciate how the foot works. A lot of shoes, like really light ones, like the Nike Freeze, were like this. And the Kanye ones, I think are like this, too.
James Cerbie: I don’t really, I don’t follow shoes. So I can’t help you on the Kanye.
Lance Goyke: What they do is when I try to scrunch the front and the back together, a lot of them will bend in the middle of the foot, which is absolutely not where you want your foot to bend. That is the part that needs to be rigid because it’s bones. It’s like it’s the long metatarsal bones. So we don’t want that to be the point of most mobility in your shoe. You want the toe to bend because that will promote your toe from bending and it won’t stiffen it up. So we need a level playing field, and we need bending in the toe. We also need that, as I said, it already, but we need that stable heel counter so that if I try to start rolling outward, my shoe is going to remind me, hey, don’t do that. I want you to stay level supination is okay, but persistent supination, where you never pronate is not okay. And by saying, yeah.
Going Through Gait When in Supination
James Cerbie: I think this is overly supinated, that’s probably what we see more than what we see the most are people, right? People that lift, people that are athletes. Strong, powerful, explosive, et cetera. We probably see more of that over propane. I spoke there for a second. We see over that supination where they need the references and the inputs to help them. One of the ways I’ve always thought about it is like, if I’m a supinator, if you want to call it that, and I’m going through gait and it’s going to be very hard for me to go find and feel the floor with the medial side of my foot, whether that’s kind of the arch and then also more the medial side of that heel bone. That’s where having a more supportive shoe can really help. Because as my foot lands in gait and I start to pronate down, I’m going to get a sensory input. This is what you’re talking about with leveling the playing field, right? I’ll get the sensory input that I need to then actually project me forward in space, and I can get my big toe to actually flex and do what it’s supposed to do.
The issue is, if you take one of these stupidtors and you throw them in super minimalist shoes or have them barefoot, it’s like, okay, I get that heel contact, and I’m starting to try to pronate down, and it’s like, okay, Where’s the floor? Where’s the floor? Where’s the floor? Where’s the floor? Where’s the floor? And you just go for days and you have to go searching for it. It’s like by the time you get there, you’re just going to be like, super sunk into that right hip. If we use the right side as an example, you’re not going to get probably any big toe extension there as you actually project off and try to move yourself forward with gait. And so having a more supportive shoe there really makes a lot of sense for people. And the issue is if you just go super minimalist with that, you’re kind of asking to run into trouble potentially. Yeah.
Why Running Barefoot Could Be Beneficial in Certain Circumstances
Lance Goyke: One, you need a really stable foot. But more importantly and you mention this, I don’t know if we’re recording yet, but you mentioned somebody running on pavement in barefoot. It’s the same thing with minimalist shoes. You just have a little bit more skin protection with the shoes. Running barefoot is probably really good for people. Sometimes. If I’m running, like up a Hill in actual dirt, it’s probably okay. But if I’m running on pavement, the foot was not designed to run on pavement. It’s too hard and it’s too flat. And really importantly, we say that the ground is hard, but I think being too flat is actually more of the issue. So when you take a not super cool traditional athletic shoe that’s been around for 30 years, not all of them are good, but some of them actually help out a lot because they promote some not instability, but unlevelness that allows your foot to feel different sensations. And what that determines is your hip activity determines your ankle activity, and that promotes the whole reason we’re doing all this is to promote more relaxation around the muscles of that joint.
Yeah. I think that’s a really important one that people don’t ever talk about in this realm. Our foot evolved and was designed over time to be on not pavement and concrete, hardwood floors, tile things that are humanly made and super flat and super hard. Our ancestors were barefoot, yes, but they were barefoot on grass and dirt and rolling Hills and very different terrain. Right. Trying to be barefoot on super hard flat surfaces versus being barefoot when you’re out walking in the yard, where you get that natural change in the contour of the land. And that’s a very different conversation. Right. And so I think maybe that’s a good point to bring up here is you and I both agree we are bigger fans of a more supportive shoe structure for people because of the fact that we are spending our time on really flat, really hard surfaces. Now, are there specific instances and times where you like to get people barefoot, though, so that we can work on that kind of foot control and foot placement? Because do you think that putting someone in an overly supportive shoe for too long and never getting them barefoot can also potentially have some consequences for them long term?
If you can train a little bit or live a little bit, let’s just say if you can live a little bit with those shoes and live a little bit without those shoes and maybe live a little bit with some other shoes that aren’t so bad for you. That variability is really good for your brain and it’s really good for your foot and your other joints. The biggest thing that I would say I would not use shoes for, and I promote barefoot for or at least I support it. I don’t know that I actively promote it because sometimes it’s a pain. But lifting I’m okay. If you do have spots on deadlift, especially deadlifts, doing that barefoot is great as long as you don’t get brainworm. The problem is we have a lot of people who don’t. I might be more prone to saying, hey, my Asian client, maybe you can squat barefoot, and that’s okay. But my English client, maybe not, doesn’t have the genetics for that. It doesn’t have the ankle mobility for that. And all they’re going to do is they’re just going to do essentially a good morning, which I did a video on, too, that’s coming out soon.
They’re just going to do good mornings, and they’re never actually going to get that. They might get as much dorsiflexion as they have, but it’s not going to get them the pelvic mobility and the pelvic floor position that I might be looking for, I don’t know, promoting long term power and mobility and helps.
Specific Circumstances You Should Get Barefoot Versus Having Support
James Cerbie: Yeah, no, I agree. I think about squatting. For me, barefoot, deadlift. I really like that. Usually if I’m doing lunges, single leg RDLs, I think those are places that’s a really good opportunity to get people barefoot, to give them the opportunity to explore, to find and to feel and actually have that expression. Squats are really difficult, as you mentioned, and that’s a person by person, client by client basis. I got to see it. Right. It’s like, sure, I would love to try squatting. You are barefoot. Let’s see what that looks like. You know, if it’s just a total train wreck, then let’s try something else. Maybe this just isn’t really in the cards for you and that’s okay because we can work on this foot ankle stuff elsewhere. Most people I’ve found are pretty good deadlifting just because of a high handle trap bar. Like the requirements of range of motion at the ankle and foot are pretty minimal. Yeah. I think another interesting thing here to potentially touch on is how much do you care about the ability of the foot to kind of actually spread out? Because this is something personally that I’ve struggled with over time.
A lot of times, the more supportive shoes, I feel like I get super people that can’t see this if they’re not watching the day, like I’m bringing my fingers and my hands together. They kind of scrunch all my toes together and my foot just feels like pinched from the side. It doesn’t feel like it has the ability to really spread and fuel the floor. That’s what’s been annoying to me in the shoe realm is I can’t find one that does both. I have my basics, which I really like because they’re nice and supportive. They feel so much better if I’m on pavement and things like that. And then I also have a pair of ultras that are super minimalist that I like to wear for on trails because the trail is so fluid, it kind of gives me more of that find and feel. And the ultras are nice because it allows my foot to spread more. The Asics kind of tend to crunch me up a bit. I’m waiting for somebody to come out with a supportive shoe that has a big ass toe box so my toes can spread out and not get totally scrunched up together.
Lance Goyke: Claustrophobic. Yeah, that is definitely important, though. I would just bunch that in with pronation. Like, you want the foot to be able to pronate and that means you want your toes to be able to spread too. If I stupidly, that squeezes my toes together a little bit more. So that’s how I would think about it.
James Cerbie: Are there any specific ones? I don’t know if exercise is the right word here, but any specific things that you like having people do to work on their feet, or is it more let’s make sure we’ve addressed things happening at the pelvis and ribcage, and then let’s just make sure that we get you in a better pair of shoes. Depending upon the circumstance, I think the environment is going to dictate what type of shoe you should probably be wanting to wear again. I’ll say people like if you’re spending a lot of time on hard, flat surfaces, you’re probably going to want something that’s a little bit more supportive. As we’ve talked about thus far throughout the episode, when you train and lift, avoid ringworm, but that’s a great time to get barefoot if you can. Right. Deadlifts lunges, single leg RDLs. Even like your pressing movements, there’s opportunities for your foot to kind of explore and figure out what’s going on out there. Squats and other activities that have really big dorsal flexion components to them. You’re going to need to really keep an eye on that and just see what it looks like. We have a good side by side image at Rebel of someone who really likes squatting more, kind of like in flat barefoot.
And they were like, just do me a favor and squat like an Olympic lifter or with a heel wedge and the movement pattern is like 100 fold better when he gets a heel wedge. Right. This is just what we’re going to do here, but we can still do some barefoot stuff elsewhere. And then I think, give yourself some variability of input here. Like having the supportive shoes for hard, flat services, maybe having just the minimalist shoes that you can wear out on the trails, or if you can do it, go barefoot. Outside of that, are there any specific exercises or things that you like to do that potentially help with appropriation or the strength or the awareness of what’s going on down there? Or do you think that variability of input should probably be enough for people as long as we do a good job with what’s happening upstream?
An Exercise to Help with the Strength and Awareness of Your Feet
Lance Goyke: As long as you’re an active person, I think the variability of input is enough. I will say, like, I haven’t spent a lot of time testing a lot of people with specific foot exercises because I think it seems dumb. It seems like a waste of time, but maybe it’s not. And it might very much not be for specific people. As somebody is describing to me, like my foot is just really tired. Another exercise that I might do this is the most specific to the foot one that I’ll do. I’ll have people take a wide stance and then touch the toes on 1ft, touch the toes on the other foot, and they just kind of slide back and forth. And I say every time you slide, I want you to push the inside of your foot down. The opposite foot pushes really hard in the ground that promotes that pronation. So that would be great if that is a limitation that you have. And then most people have door supply chain limitations. So split squats and squats, that’s how we’re promoting ankle mobility. And like you said, you’ve got to make sure the rib cage and the pelvis are in the right position.
You’ve got to make sure the muscle tension activity in that area is correct. But other than that, slots and split glass, that’s the way to get doors. Flexion Mountain Dewey, I’m glad you went there.
What’s Getting in the Way and Limiting Dorsiflexion in Most People
James Cerbie: That was going to be the last question I was going to ask here, because I know that there aren’t definitely people listening. They’re like that, but I need more dorsiflexion. And the student told me that if I just ankle mow myself and wrap a band around this joint and I just sit here and crank my knee forward over my toes, I can get back my dorsiflection. And so I would tend to agree with you that I think split squats and squats and some other exercises are probably going to be more successful in helping you reclaim that dorsiflexion. Because we’ve talked about before on the show, you’re not huge fans of stretching, because stretching really isn’t actually solving it’s not solving the problem per se. It’s kind of just like that.
Lance Goyke: It doesn’t do it. Yes, it doesn’t help.
James Cerbie: It’s like the band for a year, right? I have a rock in my shoes. I’ll take Advil type things. Like maybe we just try to take the rock out of your shoe instead. And so in addition to split squats and squats, well, maybe you could do this. If you could just like really quickly, what is it that is actually kind of getting in the way and limiting doors of flexion for most people. We can’t specifically say, guaranteed, this is going to be it for every one of you. But for a large majority of people, the middle of the Bell curve on the average, why are they actually seeing decreased dorsiflexion? Is it because of the fact that we have excessive tone running through these big calf muscles that aren’t then allowing the ankle to actually dorsiflex?
Lance Goyke: I would say that is the easiest way to look at the problem, and that’s how I explain it and even evaluate it. You’ve got the calf even when I’m not dorsiflexion, when I’m just like zero degrees of dorsiflexion just standing there. If I get a lot of calf activity, which I might have, especially if I’m shifted forward onto the ball of my foot, that calf muscle compresses the joint. It pulls the foot into the ankle. And when I do that, I eliminate space to move on. If you put a golf ball on a T and you push them really hard together, it’s really hard to turn the golf ball. But if you pull it a millimeter away from the tee, it’s free. Right. So that would be how I would look at that. The other thing that I would just say is generally if I see someone who can’t dorsiflex I want them to dorsiflex, I want them to get pressure through the heels. But I’m spending all of my time focusing on pelvic position because usually they’re going to do their squat, they’re going to come down for their pelvic position, and then about halfway they’re going to bend over a lot and they’re just going to try to shift the load away from the quad and away from the ankle.
And instead of moving through those joints, they’re just going to keep them rigid. So usually you need to squat a different way.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I think that that’s a really good way of putting it. I think the ankles get blamed a lot for people that can’t squat well. Air Quotes I think that a lot of times you need to look more upstream, like that wall that you feel like you run into, because people always do. Right. Okay. I’m squatting down and then I feel like I just ran into a brick wall. I’m like, well, the only way I can keep going down is to just fall over forward. That stuff usually is actually happening at your pelvis. It’s not your ankles fault. There are things that we need to do at the pelvis to clear that up. And then people are usually amazed once you do clear that up and they just go, they just dropped right down. Oh, my God, you didn’t even touch my ankle. Yeah, I know this poor ankle. These poor ankles have been getting blamed for years.
Lance Goyke: Yeah.
Specific Exercises to Utilize for Improving Dorsiflexion
James Cerbie: Scapegoats. Think about that. I’ll throw two other exercises in here super quick for people and then we’re going to wrap this up. So I think in this dorsiflexion realm, I also really like exercises like a yoga push up. I think it’s really good where I’m reaching, trying to sink my heels down to the floor. I can get a breath in there to try to get that calf tension to calm down. Things like inchworms as well, where I can slowly walk my feet up towards my hands and kind of like it’s more of a breathing inchworm where I’m reaching into the floor. I kind of walk my feet a few inches, take a big breath in and out, walk my feet up a few inches, take a big breath in and out. That’s another really nice way to start to reclaim this because you’re really just trying to get the tone being held in that big strong calf that kind of just chill out for you. Those are two exercises I found that help a lot as well.
Lance Goyke: I’ve got another one for you. It’s kind of like the mix of those two. If I’m doing the yoga push up idea, like the downward dog position where both my heels are sinking towards the ground. If I start there and then I take a step forward with 1ft and really try to stretch that heel towards the ground, don’t force it, don’t rip anything, but get an extra stretch. And then you also get pelvic rotation when you take that step. I call that one the Bear Walk. And I got it from Joseph Sissonle, who’s a PT in the San Francisco area.
James Cerbie: You’re kind of at the top end of that yoga push up, and then you say you walk 1ft forward and kind of get a little let that heel sink and then get a little bit of a stretch.
Lance Goyke: And I would propel forward, too. I would take a step.
James Cerbie: I got it.
Lance Goyke: And then another step, another step. I call it the bear walk because it’s like a bear crawl.
James Cerbie: Do you have a video of this on YouTube?
Lance Goyke: Absolutely.
James Cerbie: Okay. We’ll throw a link in the show notes to a video of the bear walk, and maybe we can snag that and get it on Instagram for people to see as well.
Lance Goyke: Yeah.
James Cerbie: Beautiful.
Lance Goyke: James, do you have a minute to talk more about the foot and the ankle person? So before we go, I just want to talk a little bit about special cases.
James Cerbie: Special circumstances, people outside of the Bell curve. My favorite because.
Lance Goyke: That’s my specialty. I was one of those people and I followed a lot of advice, and all that advice made a lot of sense, and it didn’t help me. So I want to talk about that a little bit first. If you’re in the Bell curve and you’re listening to that advice, and I think we talked about knees out versus in.
James Cerbie: Yeah, we had a whole squat episode.
Special Cases for Those Outside of the Bell Curve
Lance Goyke: So if you are the type of person who likes to lift really heavy. We have said that the rebel people who come to us, like the people that I train at Rebel, they tend to go knees out and they tend to supinate, and they tend to not really feel the ground. They tend to not really load the muscle. They load the joints and the ligaments instead. I mentioned briefly that you might just need to swap a different way. And that is one of the criteria. There are two criteria. One, you might need to be more upright, you might need to have more doors flexion, drop your butt straight down, and you might need to even limit your depth. But that’s a whole other thing that we’re not going to get into. And then the other thing is you might just not need to push the knees out. So far, that might be causing a lot of the issues there. So that’s the first thing that I wanted to talk about was like you might be doing it yourself and it’s fine. You just don’t know any better. But play around with that a little bit. Just make sure that you do have some it’s not that more pronation or more supination.
See, I misspoke too. Now, it’s not that more supination is better. It’s that having variability in the foot and you want some sort of neutral angle. It should pronate and supinate very slightly during the swap, but you shouldn’t queue it. It should be automatic. If you have the relaxation through the ankle, that should be fine. So lesson one is don’t mess yourself up. Lesson two is some people actually have feet that don’t look like other people’s feet. If you’re missing your big toe, for example, that’s something we have to consider. It’s probably going to be a little bit harder to control your pronation because the flexor hallucis longest, the big toe flexor that goes all the way up into your calf, that helps promote supination. It’s probably the strongest supinator you have. It goes underneath one of my favorite words, the sustentaculum tali. And it lifts up the medial edge of the ankle and it rolls the ankle outward. And that’s what gives us supination. If I don’t have a big toe, I don’t have one. So I might need to move more slowly. I might not do things that are super power or super athletic.
And you can if you can make do with it, but just be aware that it’s probably going to stiffen you up and you’re going to have to do other stuff, other accessory work later on to keep yourself together. So that’s the second example. The other bony reshaping that I think is super common is just a flat foot. You could see people if you look at them, it just looks like a pancake. The foot just spreads all the way out. If you put paint on the bottom of the foot and you took a step, that step would look like a triangle. It wouldn’t look like this oblong shaped amoeba thing with toes. Right. For someone like that. We talked about buying shoes to level the ground for someone. If you have a pretty normal foot and you just have a physiological problem, something that you could queue and fix, then normal shoes will be okay. If you have a structurally flat foot like my father, you’re not going to buy normal shoes and be able to fix that. You need a very hard plastic underneath your foot that creates an arch in your foot to maintain it. So don’t ask for help from someone like get a podiatrist. In that case, it’s going to be really important, not just for your foot and your ankle. I hope if you’re listening and you have shoulder problems and you thought maybe my foot is flat, I would hope that you would go to a podiatrist because they might be able to help you with your shoulder problems and not even know it.
James Cerbie: Yes. I think that’s a really nice asterisk that we should probably throw in every episode we do, which is that all of this is very nuanced. We try our best on the show and in these episodes to simplify it as much as we can and to try to speak to the middle of the Bell curve, we’ll call it 85 90% of people out there because we want you to be able to try to take this stuff and actually use it and for it to be useful and helpful for you in your training and in your life. But it is always nuanced. There are way more layers to this than we can get into. We would also bore you all to death if we really Dove into the weeds on all of this. So we try to keep it more service level and really action oriented. But if we’re saying things and you’re trying it and you feel like this isn’t working, that’s okay. Just ask for some more help because you need more detail. Like we’re trying to give advice and recommendation that’s going to help that middle of the Bell curve. Like, we’re going to help 85% to 90% of you with this very surface level stuff, and then they’re going to be ten to 15% of you that maybe it just doesn’t work for.
And that’s okay. Just reach out and get help because you just need someone to drill and dive deeper into your specific situation. So I think that’s a really important point.
Lance Goyke: Yeah. You need someone with the knowledge to advocate for you 100%.
James Cerbie: Lance. Thank you, my friend. Once again, we said that this is going to be a short episode and we’re cracking up on 45 minutes.
Lance Goyke: I’m out of body water and air. I feel like I had no idea. I had so much to say about it.
James Cerbie: I love it. I love it. Well, I’m going to go here and probably have copy number two then head down into the basement to get a lift in. So my man, I hope that you have a beautiful day. I hope everyone enjoyed the episode. If you have questions, thoughts, concerns you can always reach us DM us on Instagram drop us an email [email protected] we also have a Facebook group that you can join where you can kind of interact and ask us questions as well all that will be in the show notes have a great week folks.
- Explore our free training samples here: https://jamescerbie.com/training-templates/
- Follow James Cerbie here: https://www.instagram.com/jamescerbie/
- Follow Lance Goyke here: https://www.instagram.com/lancegoyke/
- Follow Rebel here: https://www.instagram.com/therebelperformance/
- Check out the bear walk video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJYlPBhWY5s
- Subscribe to Lance here: https://www.youtube.com/c/LanceGoyke
- Join our Rebel FB group here: https://bit.ly/3KfGk6A
- Want to learn more about the Rebel Performance Training Team? Click here to chat with our team: http://m.me/rebelperf
- Claim your 90-day risk-free trial to work with me and my team privately here: https://jamescerbie.com/
PLUS: Whenever you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you unlock total package strength, physique, and athleticism (without being in pain or getting beaten down by injuries).
1. Listen to the podcast.
We release a new episode every Sunday evening where we break down what to do in and outside the gym to help you become the total package (and perform pain-free) – Click here to listen.
2. Join the RP Athlete Lounge
It’s our new Facebook group where we show working professionals how to level up their strength, physique, and athleticism. – Click here.
3. Claim your 90-day risk-free trial to work with me and my team privately.
Want to work directly with me and my team to fast track your strength, physique, and performance gainz? Then go here to claim your 90-day no-risk trial: Click here.