To get your feet on and off the ground as an athlete -- whether you are running for a fly ball, hitting a jump shot, hitting a tennis ball, fielding a grounder, intercepting a pass, picking off a runner at first, hitting or running to any base -- takes a matter of seconds. The quicker your feet move, the greater chance you have for achieving success. Agility, movement, speed are all about your feet being biomechanically balanced. While quick and stable feet create positive outcomes, a foot that is unstable wobbles from side to side. Whatever type of athlete you are, staying balanced will improve your success.
A major reason why a player's feet are not stable is because they are not properly balanced. This is because of abnormal pronation and can be defined as instability of the joints in the middle of the foot (the mid-tarsal and subtalar joints). Although pronation is normal and every foot pronates, excess or abnormal pronation is not. Abnormal pronation causes a player's medial longitudinal arch or inner arch to stay collapsed throughout their entire movement cycle whether they are standing in the batter's box or standing on the mound getting ready to pitch. It also affects the foot when running to field a ball or stealing a base. Runners and tennis, basketball and football players are also affected by abnormal pronation issues in the foot. The plantar muscles in the foot fatigue because of continual repetitive activity of the arch collapsing during movement and become vulnerable to injury
Players can control abnormal foot pronation and improve their foot biomechanics by placing an arch support or a custom-made orthotic in their baseball, running, soccer, tennis and basketball shoes or football cleats. Orthotic foot supports should be placed in the shoes to provide the proper balance the foot needs to achieve better biomechanical balance and stability. All shoes are designed to protect the foot and give the player better shock absorption, traction and stability. Baseball players will benefit from this when pitching, running/stealing, fielding or hitting. Runners will be more stable during foot placement, soccer players will be more stable when running, tennis players will notice better stability when attacking the ball, basketball players will be able to set their feet better and football players will stay more balanced in their stance and get a quick first step.
Athletic shoes consists of many different parts with specific functions. They are not designed to biomechanically support the foot or prevent abnormal foot pronation. They also brake down over time and to be replaced.
Custom made orthotics made by a podiatrist or over the counter arch supports are the best ways to control abnormal foot pronation and improve foot biomechanics. Depending on how rigid the material the orthotic device is made of, it will determine how much support the foot will receive. The more rigid the materials used to make the orthotic device, the more stable the foot will be in the baseball shoe.
Custom-made orthotics are usually fabricated from a molded plaster cast of the foot that a podiatrist takes in his office and then sends to a specialized orthotic laboratory to design the product. They are made out of hard plastic or graphite materials. Orthotics stabilize and align the joints in the foot below the ankle and middle of the foot. They create better muscle balance in the lower leg and foot and allow the ball of the foot to be firmly placed on the ground. These types of devices can reduce the risk of injuries to the foot.
Over-the-counter arch supports are usually made out of high density foam materials and are not as rigid as custom orthotics. Instant Arches for all sports is an over-the-counter foam arch support that is designed for baseball, basketball, running and tennis shoes, as well as football cleats. It supports the joints in the middle of the foot and below the ankle. It allows the ball of the foot to be placed firmly on the ground for stability.
The time it takes, for a player to get their feet on and off the ground can be the difference between a win and a loss. It's a matter of seconds.
Dr. Rosenberg is the CEO and President of Foot Products Enterprises Inc., which manufactures the unique arch product, Instant Arches for baseball and softball. He is currently the arch specialist for the Baseball Factory.