Guest Blogger: Steve L. Rosenberg, DPM
Arch Specialist for Softball Factory
Instant Arches® Softball
Having Balanced Feet Equals Power and Positive Outcomes!
Strength and conditioning coaches preach balance, strength, agility and quick feet to be a successful player. That usually translates into power at the plate, speed on the base paths and quickness in the field. When softball coaches evaluate and brake down players during practices and showcases they look to see how balanced they are and if the balls of their feet are on the ground. It all starts from the bottom up. A solid foundation translates into positive results and if your lower half is weak it affects outcomes on the field. If your lower half breaks down it can affect your upper half resulting in muscle imbalances and overuse injuries. So whatever position you play it is important to have good feet. That means feet that are balanced and quiet in the batter’s box, on the balls of your feet behind the plate which will give you the quick release or pop time and the ability to respond to a ball hit in your direction when playing the field.
When evaluating a player’s footwork no one ever considers the player’s foot structure. The foot structure or foot type; flat feet or high arches, is a factor in determining how good a player’s footwork will be.
Flat Feet versus High Arched Feet
The foot is structurally designed to adapt upon contact creating a strong base with the ground and stability when running to propel you forward. However, abnormal foot mechanics can alter that design resulting in a reason for a player to have bad feet, a weak foundation and poor outcomes. If a player has flat feet they are more susceptible to being unstable and imbalanced when hitting, fielding or pitching. They also are more vulnerable to lower extremity injuries such as plantar fasciitis, arch cramps and spasms, bunion deformities, hammertoes, shin splints, knee problems and low back pain.
Players that have high arched feet can develop similar foot and lower half problems but in my experience there appear to be more athletes with flat feet then high arched feet. High arched feet can lead to ball of the foot pain because of the design and slope of the arch. There is more pressure placed on the ball of the foot resulting in metatarsal head bursitis. Plantar fasciitis, arch cramps, muscle spasms, hammertoes and shin splints are other byproducts of this type of foot type.
Little League Players Foot Problem
Calcaneal apophysitis or Sever’s Disease is a problem that can cause imbalance issues in younger players’ feet. Kids try and compensate to keep pressure off the affected foot. It occurs in kids around the ages of 10 – 15 years old. Kids complain of pain in the back of their heel which can radiate into the ankle or lower leg when jumping for a ball and coming down on the hard dirt or running the base paths. The heel pain originates at the back of the heel bone where the two parts of the growth plate are fusing together. It is aggravated when wearing softball cleats because of where the spikes are located on the heel of the cleat. This problem is self limiting and will resolve on its own when the growth plates completely close.
Although it is painful at times it will not prevent kids from playing softball. Placing a soft insole in the cleat or having an orthotic made will help reduce the impact on the heel and reduce the pain.
How to Stay Balanced
Most players, young and old, will benefit with some type of an orthotic device placed in their cleats to aid in balancing and supporting their feet. The benefits are to support the arch, control motion and realign the joints of the foot to become more stable, which results in better balance. If the foot is stable the lower half will be stronger and the player will be able to generate more power.
There are many types of orthotic devices designed to address the support and balance issues in sports but not specifically softball. The more traditional types of orthotics are made by podiatrists who are doctors that specialize in foot problems. Hand casted functional orthotics fall into that category. They are permanent supportive devices made out of hard plastics, high density foams or graphite materials. Soft orthotics can also be made by foot specialists but are often times too bulky to fit in cleats. Prefabricated orthotics and over the counter arch supports are also available. These types of supportive devices can be found through the internet or at sporting goods stores. Instant Arches® Softball is an over the counter product that specifically caters to the softball community.
Staying balanced is one of the keys to success in softball and wearing arch supports in cleats can make a difference in a player’s performance.
Always consult with your sports medicine physician regarding any injuries.
Dr. Steven L. Rosenberg is the official Arch Specialist of Softball Factory & Baseball Factory. Dr. Rosenberg is a podiatrist in private practice spanning over 27 years, specializing in sports medicine, pain management and all other aspects of podiatry. His practice is located in Santa Monica, California. He has lectured worldwide and is a regularly featured blogger on the Huffington Post AOL. He has authored numerous articles on foot injuries, injury prevention, women’s shoe issues, foot biomechanics, and the treatment of foot problems through utilization of eastern and western medicine. Dr. Rosenberg is the CEO and President of Foot Products Enterprises Inc., which manufactures the unique arch product, Instant Arches® for softball and softball. These Arches are also available for running shoes, all athletic shoes, sandals, flip flops casual and dress shoes. Dr. Rosenberg’s Instant Arches®, sold worldwide, are worn by men and women of all ages from preteens to adults. For more information on Instant Arches visit http://www.instantarches.com/ia-baseball.shtml.