Foot Health for Bouldering

Your feet are a corner stone. They literally connect you to the ground and allow you to experience the grand privilege of walking upright.  The hallmark of our species.

You will spend the rest of your life using your feet. Be it walking, running, jumping, dancing, strolling, and if you boulder, falling.  Any imbalance in the musculature in you feet will cause you problems in the future.  As a climber, foot health might not even register as a critical aspect of self care but let me assure you, a problem with your feet will permeate aggressively into the rest of your life.

My personal experience with foot health started shortly after I returned to climbing after I sprained my back.  I began bouldering more often and therefore began wearing more aggressive shoes. As I began making my way through the grades, I found that I had intense pain in the arches of my feet especially on those long approaches. This not only caused me to down climb problems in the gym but it also forced me to send problems outside that I was not quiet ready to send.  Those top outs were very embarrassing and often discouraged my climbing partners from giving the problem a go.  I was simply too afraid of hurting my feet to back off and re-approach the problem with a cooler head.

My Crossfit Sweat Angle
My Crossfit Sweat Angle

I assumed that I had stress fractures in my feet due to my back issues.  My chiropractor had indicated that I was carrying an extra 20 to 30 lbs on one leg.  But, I could not have been more wrong.

It was many years later while I was Cross fitting every week that I found out that I actually had plantar fasciities.

Plantar fuckyolife, I mean…fascitties, is one of the most common causes of foot pain. It causes pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot.  The plantar fascia connects your heel bone to your toes.

I got to hand it to the Crossfit Community, their focus on mobility and injury identification is the best in the fitness industry.  Now that I had a name for my ailment, it was easy to identify a treatment.  The treatment process was slow and painful but worth the effort.  My treatment process went as follows:

First, I started with a solid application of arnica gel every night.  In the mornings, I would warm up my feet with either a heating pad or by moving my feet (ie flexing my toes, pointing my toes in different directions, and rolling my ankles around).  Then, I would clean my feet really well and apply KT Tape.  I used the video provided below to aid me with the taping technique.

Don’t skip proper KT Tape application!  The product is expensive and if you apply it wrong, you can really hurt

Taping for Plantar Fasciitis using KT Tape
Taping for Plantar Fasciitis using KT Tape

yourself. I had to do a bit of extra taping as I was taking my socks on and off but it beats the hell out buying one of these, which is just stupid.

Finally, the kicker of a cure, I went to the beach and spent the entire time walking barefoot on the sand.  It was excruciating and I had to ice my arches every night but I was cured.  I have not had an issue with plantar fasciitis since but I could no longer wear my tiny La Sportiva Testarossas.  A small price to pay for feet that can take some serious punishment.

Foot care is easy and can be done just about anywhere.  This is an added bonus.  More importantly, understanding the anatomy of your feet will aid you in identifying issues before you start flailing around on top outs.

Let’s start with the basic musculature of the feet.

1) Extrinsic foot muscles have one attachment in the foot and the other one up in the leg. These muscles move your foot relative to the lower leg. The three muscles of the calves are all extrinsic.

2) Intrinsic foot muscles have both ends inside the foot. Intrinsic motions move one portion of the foot relative to other foot joints. One example is the muscle (abductor digiti minimi) that moves your pinkie toe out and away from the other toes.

To pursue excellent foot health you must have both extrinsic and intrinsic foot muscle strength.  I have listed a few of my favorite exercises below.

  1. Warm UP : Always warm up your feet by flexing your toes and rolling your ankles.

  2. Toe Towel Scrunchy Pinch: Put a towel or theraband on the ground and flex your toes so you
    pinch the towel and bring
    it towards you. Extra points if you can pick up the towel and drop it.  (This picture from Allegro Dance Boutique and they have a few other great foot exercises on their page.)

  3. Calf Raises of Pain and DOOM: Start with a regular calf raise until you feel the burn.  Then, go pigeon toed and do as many calf raises as you can in this position.  Finally, place your feet about hip width apart and point your toes out (external rotation) about 45 degrees.  You know what to do from there.  “Burn baby BURN”

  4. Toe-Taps of Ouch:  This exercise is very much like the Calf Raises of Pain and DOOM except you are raising your toes as high as you can, towards your shin, while your heel is placed on the ground.  Do your toe taps with your foot pointing straight, inward, and outward.  This will target the muscles on anterior of your leg.

  5. Barefoot Run or Walk: This exercise is for advanced Foot Care Gurus.  If you want to try it out, just be careful and don’t get worms.

Be sure to exercise both of your feet equally.

A Doctor would not do this...
A Doctor would not do this…

[NOTE] I am not a doctor.  Please use caution when modifying your self care routine and consult your physician before going buck wild with your feet.


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