Posted on 01-12-2017
For high intensity athletes, injury preventative exercises are imperative. Dr. Russ Ebbets came up with a daily exercise called the foot drills. Theses drills are known to help prevent chin splints, Achilles’ Tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and decrease the chance of a severe ankle sprains, and most knee problems. The basis of the drill is to strengthen the surrounding muscles of the foot, ankle and knee. The exercises help condition your brain-to- muscle pathways, which is called proprioception. For more information please read the attached article by Dr. Russ Ebbets.
The Foot Drills
By Russ Ebbets, DC
Russ Ebbets, DC, lectures extensively as a lead instructor for USA Track and Field and is the editor of Track Coach
Magazine, the technical journal for USA Track and Field and the author of the novel Supernova, on the famed running
program at Villanova.
Over the last decade I have had the good fortune to lecture on track and field and distance running
throughout America and the world. The topic of the day could be sports psychology, training theory or
biomechanics, but I always try to slip in a comment on the importance of the six foot drills. In many
instances, it may seem totally unrelated, but if performance is one’s ultimate goal, and if only one
thing is remembered from the day’s lecture – I hope it is the six foot drills.
I go the idea for the foot drills from my study in East Germany in 1987. Quite honestly there was little
value to that study tour. The East Germans seemed confused by our questions and their presentations
were disjointed and generally pointless. They did show us one Super 8 film on foot drills for high
jumpers. It didn’t register at the time.
I’ve subsequently studied several people’s work, including Edgar Cayce, who have discussed the
benefits and virtues of doing daily foot exercises for prevention of a multitude of foot and leg
problems. In 1987 the six foot drills were integrated into my team’s daily training plan and the grand
We did the six drills at the start of each practice. Five of the six drills are done barefooted or in
stocking feet. The distance covered for each drill is about 25 meters. Each drill is done once daily. The
walking is done at one’s own pace. Total time for the drill with shoes off to shoes on is about four
minutes. Pretty simple.
The six drills, illustrated below, are simply to walk on the outside of the foot (invert the foot), walk on
the inside of the foot (evert the foot), walk with a toe-in, or pigeon-toed gain (adduct the foot), walk
with the toes pointing out (a la Charlie Chaplin), and with the shoes back on, walk on the heels – this
protects against bruising the heel.
chance of a severe ankle sprain and virtually all knee problems. The famous Rice Study done in the
early 90s found that 79% of running injuries are from the knee down. One of the reasons I had
successful teams is that my athletes made it to the competition day healthy and ready to compete.
Season after season was completed with virtually no injuries.
It should be noted that there are three problems with the foot drills; they are simple, they are easy, and
they are free. It doesn’t involve more than taking off one’s shoes and putting one foot in front of the
other. But that is easier said than done.
Why do the foot drills work? There is very little muscle in the foot. This presents a problem because
most of the balance and proprioceptive sense we get comes from our muscles. A second point is that
the neuromuscular pathway (the communication line) from the brain to the foot is the longest and
slowest in the body. This leads to bad, or at best, poor coordination of the foot. If you doubt that,
put a pen between your toes and try to write your name.
The demands of athletic participation - be it running, jumping or quick starts and stops - places
tremendous stresses on the foot. In fact, the foot must sustain seven times the body’s weight with
simple running, and up to 20 times body weight in some jumping activities. Done repeatedly, this is
how an overuse syndrome such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis or Achilles’ tendonitis develops.
By challenging the foot with various gaits, one develops a clearer pathway from the foot to the brain.
Clearer pathways are faster and more responsible. This gives one better balance and proprioception.
Each foot strike becomes more “sure,” the foot contacts the ground without a wobble, however slight
that wobble might be. It is because of the “sure foot stride” that the overuse syndrome (Achilles’
tendonitis, plantar fasciitis or shin splints) are eliminated.
It has been said that running is a ground contact sport. It is this repeated micro trauma of ground strike,
repeated thousands of times than can lead to injury. Other factors, such as running surfaces and proper
shoe selection, can influence the incidence of injury. But I will contend with a great deal of assurance
that the six foot drills, done consistently, will have a tremendous positive benefit on one’s athletic
participation and performance. Applying the simple, easy and free.
The last note. The foot drills will also make you faster. I mentioned the slight “wobble” of each foot
strike. More accurately described, a “wobble” is lateral, side-to-side motion. Speed is generally
straight ahead. If, on each foot strike there is the wobble or lateral motion before there is the forward
motion, there is lost time – not much, but some. If one’s ground contact time can be reduced 1/100th of
a second (it takes 14/100ths to blink an eye,) the cumulative effect can drastically improve one’s
Consider this – if one takes 50 steps in the 100m, 50 x 1/100 = 50/100 seconds, or 1⁄2 a second. One- half second is the difference between the 9th place spectator and the Olympic Gold Medallist. In a
mile, this reduced ground contact time translates to an 8-10 second difference and in the 10K it means
between 50-60 seconds. An improvement made in the blink of an eye, one step at a time. Simple, easy
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