Foot Core

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The concept of the foot core is relatively new. For years, the “core” concept has been applied to other parts of the human body – like the abdominal core, for example. However, seeing the muscles in our feet as a core is a far more recent development.

Human feet are very complex structures, made up of numerous bones, muscles, ligaments, and joints. This complexity makes sense, since our feet have to perform many different functions to ensure our day to day mobility. Feet provide a base of support and stability, but they also perform spring-like movements that allow our bodies to store and release energy.

Feet have intrinsic and extrinsic muscles. For a long time, rehabilitation techniques have focused solely on extrinsic muscles. However, research has found that intrinsic muscles are the ones that truly support the arch of your foot and give it the necessary stability.


Researchers claim that the arch of the foot is controlled by “local stabiliser” muscles, which are four layers of intrinsic plantar muscles. These small muscles originate and insert on the foot. The arch is then mobilised by “global movers” or extrinsic muscles, which originate in the lower leg and insert on the foot. It is the intrinsic muscles that regulate the amount and speed of movement of the foot, allowing for a normal and stable range of motion. Research on the foot core has focused on applying the theoretical basis of the lumbopelvic core to the structures of the foot. This allows us to differentiate three types of structures that work together to create the foot core: the active subsystem, passive subsystem, and neural subsystem.

Passive Subsystem

The passive subsystem of the foot core is represented by the bones, ligaments, and joint capsules that shape the arches of the foot. There are four arches in each foot: the medial and lateral longitudinal arches, and the anterior and posterior transverse metatarsal arches. These four arches form a half dome that adapts during physical activities, and it is supported by the plantar fascia and different ligaments, along with intrinsic and extrinsic foot muscles.

Active Subsystem

The active subsystem is formed by the muscles that insert on the foot. This includes both the local stabilisers (intrinsic muscles) and the global movers (extrinsic muscles). There are four layers of intrinsic muscles that reach the plantar aponeurosis and align with the four arches of the foot. These muscles support the arches, bear loads, and modulate forces. Extrinsic muscles, on the other hand, create movement and control the foot.

Neural Subsystem

The neural subsystem consists of the different sensory receptors that exist in the structures that form the active and passive subsystems. Sensory stimuli have been shown to be vital to foot stability and motion. This sensory information lead to changes and adjustments in the position of the foot.


Although knowledge about the foot core is relatively new, many well known conditions could actually be a consequences of having a weak foot core. Examples include plantar fasciitis, bursitis, Morton’s neuroma, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, and stress fractures. That’s why figuring out how to strengthen the intrinsic muscles is so important.