4 Easy Progressions of the Short Foot to Provide Knee and Foot Pain Relief

By dpope2020

December 6, 2012

achilles tendon, heel pain, knee pain, patellofemoral pain syndrome, plantar fasciitis, short foot

Hey man, keep your foot short!  Fix your foot.  Arch up!

Not the most common cues you hear in the gym.

My super good buddy and co-host of the fitness pain free podcast Rob Rowland asked me one time, hey Dan, how do you coach the short foot position.   I was like, “Hey Rob good question, I don’t really know of an easy way.”  Some expert I am huh?

Well as they say, the foot bone connects to the knee bone.  If I lose the arch in my foot then my knee follows suit and goes into a crappy valgus position.  For a refresher on how all of this works check out an older article I wrote about the subject HERE:

A flatter foot is linked to both knee and heel pain.  Excessive pronation is also linked to achilles tendon pain and rupture.  Achilles tendon ruptures suck.  Just ask Pat Byrnes.  You can listen to him talk all about his achilles tendon rupture doing box jumps HERE:  The high incidence of achilles pain and rupture during running and doing high reps box jumps has led me to create a list of practical ways to prevent achilles  problems that you can READ HERE.

Anyway, this short foot thing is a bit poorly understood still and on top of that I don’t see anyone out there actively trying to fix these issues.

I was doing a functional movement screen and assessment on Pat Byrnes, head trainer at Crossfit Tribe (dude that tore his achilles) and low and behold when we did the hurdle step test and Pat was balancing on one leg his foot dropped into mega-pronation (big time flat foot).  Also, one side was way worse then the other.

So I’m thinking, “self what are the two biggest risk factors of an injury?”

  1. Previous Injury
  2. An asymmetry from right to left

That led me to think, “Wow I should probably give Pat some exercises to fix this problem huh?”

So the ultimate goal is to create some strength and stability in the foot so that we avoid excessive pronation (flat foot) when we’re doing all activities.  The basic exercises we see in most exercise programs are squat, deadlift, lunge and single leg exercises.

So why not train the short foot position during these exercises?

To start we need to learn how to get into a good foot position, known as the “short foot” popularized by the late Dr. Janda.

Now that you’re a short-foot master and can achieve this position sitting, progress to standing while maintaining the short foot.

Once you’re able to stand and keep the short foot we can really get down to business.

Next I’d try body weight squats in the short foot position.  I like the band around the knees to help get your hip muscles active to help put your foot in a good position.

Did I mention Pat has some tight heel cords too?  Really limits his ability to squat deep without Oly shoes.

Next we can load the short foot position with some deadlifts:

If you lose your arch, you went too heavy.

Now we’ll progress to a split stance or lunge position.

Finally we progress to single leg exercises.

Notice Pat is having an extremely difficult time keeping his arch in standing.  For video purposes we continued to shoot.  In reality I don’t think pat is ready yet to be using single leg exercises until he builds up some more strength while on two feet.

Obviously we can load these exercises to make them more difficult.

Now that we have these exercises down how can we put these into our program?  I like to add these in add the start of a workout or at the end in a circuit of 1 to 2 sets. (Don’t go too crazy if you’re warming up with these)

1a) Bodyweight Squat with Knee Band resisted external rotation x 5-10

1b) Deadlift x 5-10

*1c) Split Squat x 5-10

*1d) Single Leg Deadlift x 5-10

*Keep in mind that these exercises should only be used if we can actually maintain a short foot posture throughout.

Once you’ve mastered these I’m sure you could come up with all types of crazy stuff such as barefoot swings, depth jumps, single leg depth jumps etc.  To build up even more foot strength.

For the runners out there.  These exercises are very tricky.  If you lack the foot strength and stability to do these properly then imagine the damage that may be going on as you go out and run 10 miles (Anyone have knee, foot or achilles pain?).  You can blame that on the shoes you’ve been wearing your entire life.  Oh ya, check out my podcast on the subject now that I mention it.


Dan Pope

P.S. If you’ve got stinky, excessively pronated feet and enjoy these articles and videos then sign up for the newsletter at the top right hand side of the page.  You’ll stay up to date on new content and automatically become a short foot god or goddess.