Foot Arches and Muscle Strength

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The arches of the foot are controlled by a combination of factors such as muscle strength, shapes of the bones, ligaments, alignment of joints, dynamic function and the windlass mechanism. It is not clear on the relative contribution of each of those factors. It is often claimed that the muscles are important and that strengthening the muscles can improve the height of the arch.

Research on arch height and muscle strength:

SourceFindingComment
Uritani et al (2015)No correlation between toe grip strength and arch height.Cross-sectional;
Lizis et al (2010)Arch heights were not significantly related to explosive muscle strength.Cross-sectional;
Shiroshita et al (2012)The towel gathering and the great toe flexor exercise significantly decreased arch height.Prospective; not-published, conference abstract
Lynn et al (2012)Two types of exercise strengthening did not affect arch heightProspective;
Morita et al (2014)No correlation between toe flexor strength and arch height.Cross-sectional; in children
Mulligan and Cook (2013)Small decrease in navicular drop and increase in arch height with short towel exercises.Prospective; no control group.
Payne et al (2013)No correlation between the Foot Posture Index and muscle strengthCross-sectional; not published
Yasuda and Murata (2014)No correlation between strength and arch height.Cited by Uritani et al (2015)
Griffin et al; 2015There was no significant correlation between foot strength and the arch height indexPresented at ACSM Annual meeting, June 2015; abstract not available; cross sectional
Hagen et al (2010)Strengthening exercises decreased pronation velocity.Prospective; conference presentation not published; was a RCT, but ended up with twice as many subjects in one group; used a within groups analysis rather than between groups analysis
Um et al (2015)"The flexible flat foot generally showed a greater muscle tone"Study was on muscles tone and not muscle strength. Tone was higher in the lower arch group.
Tashiro et al; 2015"A significant difference was detected in toe grip strength between the low arch and normal foot groups"Small effect sizes; cross-sectional
Zhao et al; 2017"The results showed that high arches had lower ankle muscle strength while
low arches exhibited greater ankle muscle strength"
Zhang et al (2017)"Over-pronated feet have larger intrinsic foot muscles than controls"Muscles size on ultrasound used as proxy for strength.
Okamura et al (2017)Fatigue of the
abductor hallucis and flexor hallucis brevis muscles did not lead to lowering of arch height
Fatigue of the muscles did lead to less rearfoot eversion
Takashi (2017)Toe curl exercise decreased arch heightDid find increase in rigidity of long arch.
Conference abstract.
Tas et al (2018)"AbH thickness was higher in individuals with flat foot"No differences in other muscles
Zhao et al 2018Mild correlation between muscle strength and function, but no correlation to "foot height

Commentary:

  • Several of above studies are not published in peer reviewed journals, so should be weighted accordingly.
  • However, it does appear that based on the preponderance of the evidence that there is no relationship between the height of the arch of the foot and the strength of the muscles or if there is a relationship, its only a small one
  • The measures of arch in the above were static and not dynamic.
  • 'Fan boys' cherry pick the Mulligan & Cook study to support their claims and ignore the others.
  • The proposed model of core stability of the foot is based on “stability of the arch is controlled by intrinsic and extrinsic muscles” does not appear to be supported by the above.

External Links:
See what you want to believe in (Running Research Junkie)
Muscle Strength and Arch Height (Podiatry Arena)

Related Topics:
Arches | Windlass Mechanism | Autosupport Mechanisms in the Foot | Overpronation and Muscle Strength | Foot strengthening exercises | Foot Core | Short Foot Exercise

Page last updated: Sep 4, 2017 @ 11:41 am

 
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