Does one’s foot structure have any effect on sports performance?

Dr. Lou Pack | 9/7/2014, midnight
Every sport begins and ends with the foot. As the foundation of the entire skeletal system, all sports performance depends ...

Every sport begins and ends with the foot. As the foundation of the entire skeletal system, all sports performance depends on proper foot positioning. Even in sports like rowing, the power of the stroke depends to a large extent on the position of your feet and the subsequent stability and alignment that they create. Yet despite its importance, the foot remains the most neglected part of human sports performance.

Although there are many foot problems that can affect sports performance, pronation is one of the most common and is seen as a rolling in or flattening of the foot. This foot type is a poor lever; i.e. it’s not a good, rigid platform to push off from. So a right handed tennis or baseball player with a flattened left foot would find that they are faster going to their left side because they can push off easier to that side from a rigid, well positioned right foot. And this can affect any sport.

In many instances a flattened foot is associated with a longer leg on that same side. So a right handed golfer with a flattened left foot and longer left leg would always find it more difficult to follow through with their golf swing; basically, it would be as if they were always trying to swing up hill. Yet what we do in golf is often try to correct everything but our own structure. As the great Sam Sneed said, “All good golf begins at the waist. All great golf begins at the foot.” And it’s really a shame that golfers don’t pay more attention to that statement because they would have more balance, stability and consistency. In addition they would be much more likely to avoid injuries and the soreness many older golfers face routinely which they simply attribute to age.

A weight lifter with a flattened left foot can’t lift as much weight because as the foot flattens the knee rotates inward and that entire side begins to collapse. A baseball catcher can come out of a squatting position much faster if their foot is not pronated or collapsed. If you do martial arts and are doing a side kick with your right foot, a flattened left foot will make you more unstable as well as result in a less powerful kick. A high hurdler will not be able to lift their right leg as high to clear the hurdles if their left foot flattens. A gymnast will have a more difficult time on the balance beam, and a pole vaulter, diver or basketball player will not be able to get as much lift when they jump.

The effect of a flattened foot in running is also profound. The shorter the time the foot is on the ground the faster you can run. A flattened foot means that foot is on the ground longer. And decreasing the amount of time the foot is on the ground by only five one thousandths of a second each stride, can change a forty yard time from four point eight to four point six seconds. That can mean the difference in an entire career for some athletes.