Eversion Of Foot: Duck Walkers Beware


The old school style of lifting really does a number on the body.  Besides back problems, knee problems and shoulder problems, there is also a problem called eversion of foot.  What is eversion of foot?  Well, it is when your toes turn out to the side when you stand.  This bad habit also carries over into how we run, jump and squat.  But what exactly causes this problem?  Mainstream fitness and S&C knowledge has been telling us that it is weak hamstrings.  Weak hamstrings are a symptom of eversion of foot, but not the cause.  In this post we are going to explore eversion of foot.  We are also going to look at some soft tissue work and stretches to alleviate it.

The Under-Appreciation Of The Lower Leg

Our lower leg takes a beating day in and day out.  Throughout the day we take a series of controlled falls we call walking.  The bones, joints and muscles of the lower leg can be handling 2.5x our bodyweight with each step.

With these forces at play in the lower leg it is no wonder why so many people complain about tight calves, swollen ankles and tired feet.  This should be a wake up call.  The lower leg needs constant maintenance everyday.  Not only people who perform service jobs who are standing all day, but also desk workers.  Sitting down too long causes a shortness in the hamstrings.  Tight hamstrings will lead to tight calves and unbalanced shins.

Either way, failure to maintenance the lower leg will lead to bad form when walking.  If we are taking 10,000 steps a day with bad form, we are going to eventually get some blowback.  This blowback can rear its ugly head as either plantar fasciitis, collapsed arches, high arches and a ruptured achilles tendon.  Okay so now that i’ve scared you lets explain what eversion of foot is.

What Causes Eversion Of Foot?

Eversion of foot is when the foot fails to remain neutral when walking.  In other words, when your foot is turned out to the side.  The common slang for this is walking like a duck.

The cause of foot eversion is usually tight gastrocnemius muscles.  The gastrocnemius originates on the two femoral condyles of the femur and attaches, via the achilles tendon, to the heel bone of the foot.

In the book Anatomy Trains, author Thomas Myers explains that muscles that cross more than one joint are called express muscles.  Muscles that cross only one joint are called local muscles.  If the express muscles become overactive, then they will overpower the local muscles.  In the case of the lower leg, the gastrocnemius is the express muscle and the local muscle is the soleus.  The soleus only crosses the ankle.

So why is the soleus so significant?  Well, the soleus attaches on the medial portion of the heel bone.  This means that the soleus is responsible for inversion of foot.  The gastrocnemius attaches on the lateral side of the calcaneus.  This means that it is responsible for eversion of foot.

This is why I hate training your calves with weights.  To much time spent on aesthetics ruins proper mechanics.

How Eversion Of Foot Can Affect Training

Meyers also explained how the gastrocnemius is part of a much larger movement train called the superficial back line.  This back line runs from the plantar fascia of the foot all the way to the back of the neck.  In the next few paragraphs I am going to go over a common example of an imbalance in this superficial back line and just how detrimental it can be to your training.

Needless to say, if one area of this back line become tight or stiff, then other areas of this back line get tight as well.  The most commonly affected area are the hamstrings.  The hamstrings are the northern neighbor of the gastrocnemius.

When the hamstrings get tight, they will interfere with the function of the glutes.  The hamstrings will pull the pelvis into anterior pelvic tilt.  This causes the hip flexors to become tightened and shortened.  The hip flexors are the antagonists of the glutes.  This causes neurological inhibition of the glutes.

If the glutes become inactive, then the hamstrings will try to take over as the hip extensors.  Since the hamstrings do not directly work with the femur, this can lead to anterior femoral glide.

Working further upstream the lower back will become tightened both in the case of the spinal erectors and the lats.  This is done in order to stabilize the pelvis.  If the lats get too tight, then the thoracic spine will become stiff.  This leads to problems with the shoulders during overhead motions.

Incredible isn’t it.  One muscle gets thrown off balance and the whole system eventually goes haywire.  Although there are ways to fix these problems, is it in fact possible to fix these problems permanently without driving yourself completely nuts.  Believe it or not you actually can prevent most of these problems from ever taking place.

Tips To Eliminate Eversion

Now most people like to make a game out of everything.  If the answer to a problem seems too simple for them they will not take what I have to say seriously.  I get a look from them like, “it can’t be that simple, you must be screwing with me”.  Well trust me I’m not screwing with you, it really is that simple.  All you have to do to prevent these problems from ever happening again is to develop perfect posture.

Now if your muscles are really tight, then we will have to stretch them out first. Start from the bodies center of gravity (i.e. hips) and work your way downstream.  The first two muscles to stretch are the hip flexors and the hamstrings.

Once the hamstrings and hip flexors are stretched, it is time to activate the glutes.  Focus on simple glute activation drills to light them back up.  The hip should now be in solid shape.  So the next thing to do is to stretch the calves, in particular the gastrocnemius.  Hold these stretches for a long time (2-5 minutes) as the achilles tendon is very thick.

Performing the above flexibility work, along with working on your posture, will get your lower body back into proper alignment and will help to avoid many annoying injuries that would otherwise creep up on you in the future.

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