• Functional training is defined as movement or exercise that improve a person’s ability to complete daily activities or achieve a specific performance or sports goal.


• The fitness industry often labels movements that are multi-planar, multi joint or performed on an unstable surface as ‘functional’.


• Despite the different definitions of ‘functional movement’ it is generally accepted that human movement begins from the ground up and that single leg/unipedal stability is the foundation of locomotive and athletic function.


• Functional Testing Grids and the Star Excursion Balance Test (SEBT) are well established as clinical tools, and are considered to be reliable methods of measuring functional limitations in range of movement at the ankle, knee and hip.


• Although the foot is the beginning of the kinetic chain assessed by these functional tests, its influence on the test results is rarely considered. The foot’s structural stability and its ability to react to and control the effects of gravity and ground reaction force (GRF) will have a profound effect on the range and quality of movement observed during testing and training.




Restoring foot function begins with restoring foot ‘form’ or shape. Just as the foot becomes shoe-shaped from wearing shoe-shaped shoes, the foot will become more foot-shaped by wearing foot-shaped shoes! The adaptation of the human body to the mechanical loads and stresses placed upon it is known as ‘Wolff’s law’ in biology. The key ingredients to restoring foot function are daily exposure to GRAVITY and MOVEMENT (the forces that create anatomical adaptation), and FUNCTIONAL FOOTWEAR (providing the ‘space’ for anatomical adaptation).





1- Foot-shaped design (=toefreedom): A shoe should mimic the ‘fan-shape’ of a healthy unshod foot i.e. the widest part of the shoe should be the distance from the base of the great toe to the tip of the smallest toe (the toe-box). ‘Wide’ shoes that are not foot shaped are just as harmful to foot function as narrow shoe-shaped shoes


2- Flat sole: The weight–bearing area of the sole should be flat to the floor to provide maximum surface area


3- No toe-spring: The toes can only perform their stabilising role if they are in contact with the ground




Based on simple physics, the demands on the movement system increase as the forces acting on the body increase (bodyweight) and/or stability decreases e.g. two feet to one foot to just the forefoot. Start using your functional footwear with the movements on the left and slowly progress towards the movements on the right.

• Wilson J & Kiely J. The Multi-Functional Foot In Athletic Movement: Extraordinary Feats By Our Extraordinary Feet. Human Movement (2016) • Hertel J et al. Simplifying the Star Excursion Balance Test: Analyses of Subjects With and Without Chronic Ankle Instability. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (2006) • Cote KP et al. Effects of Pronated and Supinated Foot Postures on Static and Dynamic Postural Stability. Journal of Athletic Training (2005) • Anat LV & Kramer PA. The Association between Foot Morphology and Dynamic Balance Performance as Measured by the Star Excursion Balance Test. Journal of Exercise, Sports & Orthopedics (2015) • Basnett CR et al. Ankle Dorsiflexion Range Of Motion Influences Dynamic Balance In Individuals With Chronic Ankle Instability. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy (2013) • Wilkinson et al. Feet and Footwear: Applying Biological Design and Mismatch Theory to Running Injuries. International Journal of Sports and Exercise Medicine 4:090 (2018)