Joe Nimble

Foot function and exercise-related pain

“When our feet hurt, we hurt all over.” (Socrates)

After the excesses of Christmas, resolutions for a healthier lifestyle and weight loss are common. Exercise and increased physical activity are rightly promoted as a means towards achieving these ends, but exercise-related pain and injuries are a common reason for quitting new regimes (Dishman, 1988). Good intentions are often thwarted by a frustrating, vicious cycle of trying to lose weight and improve health with exercise, only to suffer pain and injury, become less active and gain weight.

Dysfunctional feet are an unrecognised cause of exercise-related pain and injury (Vorobiev, 1999). Compromised foot structure leads to an unstable foot that, in turn, leads to compensatory activity of muscles to counteract the effects of an unstable base during weight-bearing activity. Fatigued muscles, lacking energy to relax, develop chronic low-level tension and knots called ‘trigger points’ that impair blood flow, irritate nerves and produce pain during and after activity (Bron and Dommerholt, 2012). Pain can be near the trigger point or referred to areas far from the overworked muscle (Travell and Simons, 1993). Trigger points in the lower and upper leg, hips and even the torso, head and neck are common consequences of compromised foot structure, as the body strives to create stability on an unstable base.

Foot structure can be restored by spending time loading the feet with bodyweight in functional footwear, thus removing the root cause of the trigger point problem by creating stable feet and facilitating pain-free movement and achievement of exercise and health goals. Make stable and functional feet your New Year’s Resolution!


  • Bron C & Dommerholt JD: Etiology of myofascial trigger points. Curr Pain Headache Rep 16: 439-444, 2012.
  • Dishman RK. Exercise adherence: Its impact on public health. Champaign: Human Kinetics Books; 1988.
  • Travell JG & Simons DG. Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 1993.
  • Vorobiev, G. Evolution of injuries in athletics. New Stud Ath 4: 23-26, 1999.
Tags: science, foot function, pain, exercise