Newsletter - October 2008
Written by Neil Hansen, Owner, MAT Specialist, RTS, CTA Life Coach

Foot Function

This past September marked the 4th time I have attended the MAT Master Class for Foot Function in Denver, Co. As with previous Masters classes from MAT, new expanded perspectives were brought to the class to evolve the evaluation and treatment process. Being quite possibly the most complicated mechanical area of the body, the foot offers many challenges in understanding it’s function as well as it’s relationship to all motions that happen up the body in regard to gait (and any movement that requires your feet to be on the ground for that matter). Every time I go through the MAT Foot Function Course not only do they add more but my understanding of the foot evolves as well. With that, my skill level with the foot has reached new levels and I feel I can confidently call myself a Foot Specialist (in relation to MAT—in understanding and treating foot mechanics).

One of the things that was reinforced for me in this last class was the relationship of mechanical issues that happen up the chain when the foot and ankle are not working at full ability. The entire body reacts to what is happening with the foot. Knowing how important the foot is to our health and progress in the quest for improving our body, I decided to give you some perspective as to what role the foot plays with the rest of the body. The following is a basic (very basic) overview about what happens when the foot hits the ground and we move through the gait cycle.

1. The foot hits the ground in a rigid and locked position. It does this heal first.

2. To absorb the ground reaction forces, the heel begins to pronate (pronation is the collapsing of the joints starting in the foot but it happens throughout the body). The same leg (both the lower and upper leg) pronate in that they follow the heel and start to rotate inward.

3. The rest of the foot (mid-foot and forefoot) begin to hit the ground and continue the pronation process in the foot. This is where the rest of the foot starts to flatten out.

4. As the foot, leg and hip pronates so does the opposite arm and shoulder (pronation is also happening in the back and neck). During this pronation phase of gait, in their effort to resist the body from collapsing, all these muscles are stretching and storing elastic, reusable energy. At the same time, the other half of the body is supinating, which is the locking of the joints that provides stable and rigid levers for propulsion. While one foot is collapsing, the other is becoming rigid.

5. From this initial pronated position, your momentum carries your opposite hip forward (along with your other leg, which is in swing phase) and that drives your body forward and into rotation thus causing the pronated leg to outwardly rotate and that starts the supination process of the foot. This transition from pronation brings the foot into neutral (where your leg is under your hip). All that stored elastic energy from the pronation process is being used to move into supination/locking.

6. As you continue to the end of gait cycle (the leg going back and your heal coming off the ground), you continue the supination process and that foot, leg and _ of the body should be in supination.

7. When this foot is locked and rigid, the big toe can bend and allow for the final push off of gait.

8. At the same time of push off, the opposite leg is striking the ground and starting pronation.

As you can see, there is much that has to happen in order for the gait cycle to work in the most efficient manner. And since pronation and supination need to happen in the entire body, the body is going to take its lead from the information the foot is sending. So, if the foot is not working at full potential, the rest of the body must compensate in order for you to get through gait as well as other motions. Ultimately, if your foot is not doing its job, the rest of your body pays the price from the knees all the way up to your neck. Not to mention, the foot itself can get pretty beat up by not functioning properly—one area in the foot often tries to compensate for another area in the foot, which often leads to things like plantar-fasciitis and bunions.

October is Foot Function Month!!!!

For the entire month of October, I am offering a 15% discount on all foot treatments. All the trainers here at Fitness Werks now have the ability to screen your basic foot function to see if you have any limitations that would benefit from a foot and ankle tune up. And since all the trainers who work at Fitness Werks have training in MAT, I would first suggest having them work on you to eliminate things from the ankle on upwards so when I “dig” in to the feet, I only need to address what they could not tend to.

Stress—using checks and balances

In my last newsletter I brought up the fact of how too much stress, whether it be mechanical, emotional or chemical stress, can lead to reducing the efficiency desired from an exercise program (see May 2008—Stress and Cortisol). The more we learn about the effects of stress, the more we understand our responsibility as exercise professionals to provide a path for our clients that not only leads them towards their specific goals but one that also fits within the tolerance of their system’s ability to handle stress. Our first priority is to make sure that we do not exceed your body’s ability to handle mechanical load—that being anything repetitive with some form of resistance (cardio and weight training). At any time there is a muscle imbalance present in your body (especially when you exercise), you increase your chance of over-stressing your body to the point of negating desired results as any imbalance reduces your body’s ability to handle stress over time. With that, it is our goal to continue to use the tools we have in place to discover and treat any of the issues that would stand in your way of accomplishing your goals in a healthy and timely manner.

Using the MAT process, whether that be just doing simple muscle testing along with an isometric reinforcement (or any type of reinforcement exercise) or it be the full MAT treatment process, we have the ability to check your system for tolerance of stress. Traditionally, MAT is designed to evaluate the body as a whole and address any limitations we see—understanding those limitations are present because of an imbalance leading to systematic weakness. Once we find a weakness and treat it using any level of MAT, including specific exercise, we can then implement general exercise to see whether the body is now able to handle the imposed demands of the workout prescribed by your trainer. We could be as general with checking on your tolerance by testing what we call “global stabilizers,” which there are a few in your core area, or we could go back and check the specific muscles we already reinforced.

What going back and testing allows us to know is whether or not our prescribed exercise is working to help progress you or if it is too much stress for you system, which would inhibit the progress that exercise was intended to create. If we did find either the global stabilizers or the specific muscles weak, we could do one of many things. For example, we could choose to bridge the gap between the last level of MAT and the exercise we chose by providing an exercise somewhere between those two levels of stress or we could also avoid working at that level all together and choose either a different path to move in or a different exercise altogether. Whatever we choose to do, we still have our checks-and-balances of the MAT process to go back to in order to confirm whether or not our choice of exercise has worked to elicit the response of progress.

We feel that we are a leading edge facility with leading edge resources available to us at any time. We also feel that we do our best to continue to evolve our understanding of what it takes to not only help you get to your goals faster but also to help prolong the health and efficiency of your health and well being. It is our goal to provide you with the most advanced services to help you maximize your valuable time and money.

Book Release—Website and Charity

As many of you already know, I self-published my first book a few months back. Since I do not have the backing of a publishing house, I will mainly be marketing, selling and distributing this book myself through my website With that, I will be pairing up with various charities to help with the sale of book and, in return, will donate proceeds from the sales (generated by that individual or charity) back to that charity. If you have a charity you would like to support, please contact me directly for details.


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