In previous posts we have discussed the association between our intrinsic (core) foot strength and foot function during walking and running. The research has identified a link between weakness and atrophy of these muscles and the development of chronic conditions such as heel pain and plantar fasciitis (fasciosis). This atrophy is most pronounced in those with long term use of orthotics. Strengthening of these muscles is a excellent way to alleviate foot and ankle pain, as well as, reduce the risk of recurrence for these chronic conditions.
A recent review of the literature highlighted the impact of strength training on these heel conditions as well as the development of intrinsic foot strength (Huffer et al. PT in Sport. 2016). The authors reviewed 7 articles on the subject and found strength training was effective for treatment of plantar fasciitis as well as increasing intrinsic foot strength. The authors reported limited evidence to support the use of minimalist shoes to improve intrinsic foot function. Interesting, despite improvements in strength, function, and pain the exercises did not show changes in plantar fascia. This is likely similar to what we see in many tendon conditions where benefits are seen before true tissue changes take place, often requiring up to 1 year for complete healing.