Physical Alchemy “year of the foot” Foot Training Experiment 2015

Dave Wardman

“I’ve already declared 2015 “year of the foot”, by the way” [Ancestral Simon]

The above photo was taken at the recent Ido Portal – Corset workshop in Sydney.  The foot in the fly, orange and black tiger shoes is my foot, and the gargantuan hobbit-foot is that of Mountain Hammer (Craig Mallett). Hammer started barefooting circa 2012, and has noticed increased width and hypertrophy the foot, and a whole suite of benefits higher up the body related to this.  Just look at that foot(!) – it’s wider than my shoe (see below)! No wonder Craig has such troubles finding footwear..*

The comments section of the this photo in the Physical Alchemy Facebook group have taken off.  Kit, and avid supporter of foot training and barefoot walking for many years now, responded to the picture “I am now wondering just how many diseases and illnesses have their genesis in insufficient foot stimulation?” – K.

So, shall we take some measurements and have at this “year of the foot”?  Below I have listed my suggestions for quantitative notation, but I am actually far more interested in the qualitative and subjective ‘ripple on’ effects that people notice.
Baseline Foot and Lower Leg Measurements

The equipment need for this is minimal: measuring tape (inches and centimeters), pen, A4 (or A3 if you are Craig) size paper and a camera.  Besides the measurements shown, a few photos from different angles will create a nice 3-dimensional representation.  Try to use similar lighting for each shot.
The 6 Foot Training Measurements are:1) Medial Arch2) Toe Box3) Tracing the Foot4) Calf Girth5) Secret Lower Shin Girth6) Photos*Edit – Kit has suggested measuring the calf and foot girths from a standing, not squatting position, which is probably wise.  At any rate, make sure you note which one you did the first time around.
1) Medial Arch – The measurement is taken at the apex of the medial arch, on the navicular bone.  The tape is pull tight, so as to touch the full circumference of the foot.  Hopefully this will map hypertrophy of the plantar muscles (plantar quadratus) flexors of the hallicus, tibalius posterior muscle and tendon thickening.

2) Toe Box [Metatarsal head girth] – This measurement is taken around the heads of the metatarsals, around the 1st and 5th heads.  Again, the tape should be pulled tight.  This should indicate hypertrophy of the interossii muscles and short flexors of the toes and Hallicus.


3) Tracing the foot onto paper – Tracing the foot with a pen or pencil.  This gives a nice visual impression of a number of dimensions of the foot.  Can be done either foot relaxed, and/or foot with the toe-spread maxed out at current level.


4) Standard Calf (Gastrocs & Soleous) Girth Measurement – Measure with tape taut around the widest portion of the calf (give yourself a fighting chance!).

5) ‘Secret’ Lower Shin Measurement – I want to see the change in size of this area due to the deeper posterior comparment musculature changing – tibialus posterior, flexor hallicus, fibularis group, etc,.  The measurement is taken four fingers width up from the middle of the medial maleous.

[“Toe Climbing” by Mountain Hammer]Training Methods This experiment is non-prescriptive in terms of training methods.  In fact, I think it will be more interesting if we have a variety of methods on show.Ancestral Simon and Mountain Hammer have already put up an awesome series of foot training exercises that can be followed if you do not have your own exercise protocols.

Video 1
Video 2
Video 3 

I am going to be using versions of my ‘Calfpocalypse‘ exercise, rail balancing, foot gripping exercises, balancing exercises and a variety of stretching and tissue wringing methods.  When I tinker enough to have a protocol I like I will post it.

Kit has posted a very long and excellent foot mobilisation sequence that can be used regularly, or as a means to test progress throughout the year – see HERE.  There is also a large foot pronation correction discussion thread on the Stretch Therapy forums that has a large amount of information and some additional exercises.

I am quite keen on making this into a 3-part 5-neck (1 neck, 2 x foot-ankle-shin, 2 x hand-wrist-forearm) experiment, but may as well start from the ground and work upwards.  Ancestral Simon has already designated 2015 the “year of the foot”, so I thought it would be fun and interesting to take some measurements to actually see what happens when we focus in on foot training methods of various types.Please feel free to join in the experiment (and take full personal responsibility for your own exercise programming).  Post pictures into the Physical Alchemy Facebook group comment section to this blog.


*Craig was telling me he recently we to a bare-footing shoe brand warehouse in the States, and even the XXL width shoe was insufficient, as almost all shoe brands increase the toe-box only, whereas Craig has noticeably hypertrophied the mid-section of his foot (perpendicular to the medial arch).