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Race Day September 22, 2018

Healthy Living Expo September 20-21, 2018

Do your knees hurt while squatting or lunging? Check your Feet!

, by Kyle M. Sela, St. Luke's Rehabilitation

A common reason runners avoid performing squats, lunges or other leg strengthening exercises is that they perceive them to be bad for their knees because they often cause pain. This is really unfortunate, because for my money there may not be two more important exercises to master and perform as humans. If you think about it just about everything we do during the day revolves around some variation of a squat or lunge. Using the restroom, stairs, getting in your car, picking up something off the ground, etc. all require similar patterns to lunging and squatting. 

There can be a lot of reasons that the squat and lunge cause pain in your knees but today we will focus on how foot position relates to that pain. Ideally, our feet will have a nice arch along the inside when performing either of these exercises. This means that the inside of your foot will be slightly elevated. Now if you happen to have a flat foot, that’s okay, you can use the muscles in your foot and lower leg to lift that arch up. Even if you have a nice arch in your foot, it’s important to learn how to maintain it while performing exercises as this will lead to improved form and strength in the foot. Try it!

  1. Place your foot on the ground with your shoes off

  2. Press your big toe in the ground and focus on elevating the arch up. If you feel a crampy feeling in your arch you are probably doing it right! That’s your muscle working hard to provide you support.

Now that you know how to create an arch in your foot you are ready to attempt to keep that arch while performing a squat or lunge. Now, while you perform either exercise with a maintained arch what you will notice is that your weight will be felt in the outside portion of your mid-foot and heel. This is great and exactly where you want that bodyweight to be focused. Controlling yourself up and down through your heels will allow you to activate and maximize the use of the muscles in the “posterior chain” such as your low back, glutes and hamstrings. 

If you notice that as you lower yourself deeper into the squat or lunge that your weight moves to your forefoot try two fixes.  

  1. Turn your foot in some (less of a “ducked out” position)

     2. Narrow your stance slightly (when squatting)  

In the end proper foot position while squatting or lunging will help decrease pain, improve knee and hip mechanics and activate the larger muscles in the back of the hip and thigh.
If you would like an expert eye to take a closer look at how you move whether it be with calisthenics, strength training or even while running, contact St. Luke’s Rehabilitation or St. Luke’s Sports Medicine to help get you on the right track.

Kyle M. Sela, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, CSCS
St. Luke's Rehabilitation

Tags: physical activity,health,fitness,exercise,running,wellness,strength training