Get in an athletic position! Get the balls of your feet on the ground! That is the cry infielders and outfielders should hear from their coaches when playing defense. In order to get into an athletic position you have to be able to move your feet quickly. Feet that are abnormally pronated are unstable and causes lower half instability making it difficult for a player to react.
Regardless of what position you play on defense when the balls of your feet are on the ground, you will be in the proper athletic position ready to perform and moving towards the ball. If you are standing flat footed and a ball is hit towards you, your reaction time towards the ball is slower. This translates into not setting your feet properly, being unbalanced when you catch the ball and hurrying your throw. The end result will be a throwing error or the runner will be safe beating the throw by a step. Therefore, it is imperative and always a formula for success to set your feet when throwing by being balanced. This creates stability in your lower half and you can shift your weight evenly when fielding because the balls of your feet are on the ground. Feeling the ground allows more fluid instinctive movements.
As a hitter, the lack of proper foot biomechanics and structural misalignments in the hips, legs and feet are contributing factors to lower half balance problems in players. This could be a reason why the player is not able to get the balls of his feet on the ground in the batter's box or getting enough torque in their hips when hitting. Torque generates power and being properly aligned and balanced allows the hips to rotate more freely.
Being balanced allows the lower half of your body to stabilize. As a pitcher, having the balls of your feet on the ground allows for better balance whether you are pitching from a stretch or in the windup. It is very important to be able to transfer your weight and stay balanced at the same time. The foot is both a mobile adapter and a ridged lever so both motions, coming set and delivering needs to be fluid and balanced. When the ball of the foot is on the ground and the medial longitudinal arch of the foot is supported by an arch support in their baseball shoes, the mid tarsal and subtalar joints will be stable and not collapse. This process will allow for the proper lower half pitching mechanics to occur. A pitcher needs to be well balanced when they bring their knee up to start their pitching motion. Failing to be stable will cause them to wobble or drift to one side or the other when they are throwing down hill off the mound and not finish with a stiff front leg. Therefore they will not be throwing on a downhill plane and it throws their timing and mechanics off causing the pitch to sail. This can result in arm, elbow or shoulder injuries.
Muscle imbalances in the player's lower half affecting the feet, legs, thighs can eventually result in overuse injuries, muscle fatigue and potential soft tissue problems. Abnormal foot pronation is the main cause for muscle imbalances in the lower extremity. Many lower extremity problems are soft tissue in nature and are due to repetitive overuse activities such as running too many sprints without allowing for proper recovery time and not having an arch support in your baseball or training shoes. Muscle strains, pulls, plantar fasciitis or a tendinitis are the usual suspects affected. They are the byproduct of an accumulation of micro tears or trauma in the muscle belly that can result in chronic problems if not recognized early and treated properly.
Two of the more common problems that can alter a player's ability to play every day are Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendinitis. Plantar Fasciitis can be a chronic problem if not dealt with immediately. Pain is felt in the heel and throughout the entire arch area of the foot. It mainly occurs because of the medial longitudinal arch of the foot repeatedly collapses over a long period of time (abnormal pronation) when running and walking. It is more painful in the morning when your foot first hits the floor and as the plantar fascia tissue stretches during the day the pain easies. Achilles tendinitis is another problem that can affect the player. It is an inflammation of the lower 1/3rd of the Achilles tendon and tendon sheath (tenosynovities) as it travels down the back of the lower 1/3rd of the leg and attaches the calf muscle to the back of the heel bone.
The only way to control abnormal pronation forces in the foot which are the root of many muscle imbalance problems in the lower extremity is to support the arch of the foot with a custom made orthotic or an over the counter arch support. These products will give the foot the ability to become more stable and place the ball of the foot on the ground for better balance.
Getting the balls of your feet on the ground, setting your feet and being totally balanced is the ticket to making more accurate throws as a position player, feeling more balanced when pitching and being able to transfer your weight more evenly and getting your hips involved when preparing to hit. The best way to achieve this is to use an arch support in your baseball shoes. There are many types of arch supports on the market that will help support your foot. Custom made orthotics made by podiatrists or other health care professionals can be very helpful in supporting the foot and balancing the lower half.
My own Instant Arches Baseball is an over the counter arch support product that is specifically designed for baseball players and provides an easy solution to balancing your foot in all facets of the game. According to Ethan Katz, varsity pitching coach and former professional pitcher, he observed: "While working for a collegiate league with some of the top college players in the country this summer, I had a chance to introduce some of the pitchers to the arches. They immediately found a difference with their balance on the mound. One of the pitchers had a problem with his foot moving back and forth while trying to hit his balance point. When we put the arches in his shoes his foot became stable and he felt a lot more comfortable on the mound, which lead to more consistent and repeatable mechanics."
No matter what facet of the game you are involved in, foot stability is vitally important and the key for success.
Dr. Rosenberg is the CEO and President of Foot Products Enterprises Inc., which manufactures the unique arch product, Instant Arches for baseball and softball.