Foot Beam Balance 101

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Presented by: Allison Gaudet MScPT, BSc(Kin), MClScPT(Manip), FCAMPT, AFCI, Registered Physiotherapist

A fun new tool that we got recently in the clinic is this foot beam from the Foot Collective. It allows us to step out of our shoes and be barefoot on the beam to really work all the foot and ankle muscles that we have available to us. We can gain so much from the sensory inputs and the feedback we get from all our little foot and ankle muscles being engaged. Working these muscles allows us to get good positioning from hip-knee-ankle-to-foot for strength and balance.

We’re going to get onto the balance beam, just as simple as trying to get the foot wrapped around the beam, making all those foot and ankle muscles work while we’re standing on a single leg. This is a task on its own! So sometimes we can get you on the beam just holding the position and trying to stabilize. If we cannot keep this position, our foot and ankle muscles aren’t working. If the knee or hip drops, we lose control. We can work with the balance beam and another support first, to work towards a stable position and hold. Once balanced, what we find is that we end up tightening up our tummy, keeping that knee in good position, making those foot and ankle muscles grip around the beam. We get so much information and sensory feedback to really help work on that strength. Once we feel good with this position, we can switch to the other side. This allows us to pick out any of the deficits. We may notice that we are stronger on one side without realizing how weak the other side is. Or, maybe we start seeing that balance in the upper body struggle and the foot-ankle is working so hard. When we start controlling and getting that feedback, the muscles come along nicely.

When we get comfortable standing still, we can work into the dynamic part: one leg on, then the next, walking along the beam. Again, using the stick for stability on one or both sides. We’re using the foot and ankle muscles, trying to wake them up and driving into position and the knee/hip. If you need to step down from the beam, you can, but the more work you do to get those balance reductions leads to strengthening and waking up the muscles. Your task is to stay on this beam for as long as possible. Once that is good, we can get into some backwards walking. Our eventual goal is to get rid of the extra pole for stability.

Other things we can do on the beam to work on some of the muscles at the front of the foot, is to work on a sideways walk on the beam. The Foot Collective group calls this a Ninja Stand and then a Ninja Walk. To do it, stand beside the beam. Wrap your toes around the bar engaging all the foot ankle muscles, working so hard to stay in a good position. If you are losing strength in his knees or muscles, you won’t be able to hold on. The foot starts everything with a nice stable base. The goal is just to hold the position for as long as possible.

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