Runners are unipodal athletes. At no time during the execution of our sport do we ever have two feet on the ground at once. A runner spends all his or her time other on one foot or floating through the air. Running is essentially a controlled fall. The muscles and connective tissue decelerate this fall as the foot contacts the ground, and then apply up to 3-5Gs of force to propel the runner forward. It makes sense that since we spend so much time on one foot, we should all be very good at it.
Interestingly, it is my clinical observation that many runners are decidedly not good at standing on one foot more less performing movements or functional tasks on one foot.
Getting comfortable being on one foot does not have to be time consuming or onerous. It can simply mean integrating single leg stance into activities or exercises that you are already doing. Here are some suggestions:
- Brush your teeth on 1 foot
- Stand on 1 foot while waiting in the grocery store line up with your cart
- Stand on 1 foot while putting your socks on in the morning
- Do at least 1 set of certain strengthening exercises on 1 foot while at the gym (single leg dead lifts, single leg calf raises, single leg squats)
- Stand on 1 foot while doing lighter upper body strengthening (alternating dumbbell curls)
- Play games with your children (hop scotch, slack line)
- Single leg yoga postures
- Double leg hop skipping
There is benefit to practicing this in bare feet so that your foot muscles can strengthen and so that you can feel more connected to the ground, however there is also benefit to doing single leg stance exercises in your running shoes, considering…well, that you run in them. It should be a warning sign however, if you have better balance in bare feet than in your shoes. This might mean reassessing your choice of shoes at least replacing them with a new pair.
Here is one of my favourite exercises for runners: the Single Leg Squat with Strider
Make it your mission to get very good at being on one foot! You’ll be a better runner for it.
Kim Sénéchal, Registered Physiotherapist, Run Coach, Ultra Runner
The Running & Gait Centre: Foundation Rehabilitation Services, Pan Am Clinic 204-927-2660