Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Foam Rolling is the method of choice for many folks to work out tight spots and stiff muscles. I particularly like foam rolling right before bed or earlier in the morning to help warm up muscles and get fluids and lymph moving. But here’s the thing, in my opinion, a lot of trainers and Pilates instructors are spending too much time foam rolling without implementing a more nuanced and intelligent approach.
If you’re the type of person who just loves foam rolling because it feels good then it’s all good. But if you’re expecting your foam rolling session to bring lasting relief to aches and pains or prepare you for the rest of your workout then we need to work more intelligently and more efficiently.
There’s a fine line between spending too much time on soft tissue work and self-massage versus using it wisely in tandem with corrective exercise and progressive strength training to help alleviate pain, avoid injury, and bulletproof the body for the demands of sport and life.
This is where the beauty of foot pressures comes in. When I say foot pressures, I am referring to the insanely quick and easy process of standing barefoot and observing where you feel the pressure of your body weight going into the floor through your feet. I call this a self-assessment because it is something you can do even if you aren’t a movement professional or therapist, but it can help you determine if what you're doing is effective and beneficial.
You’ll want to take a screenshot of this diagram and maybe even set it as your wallpaper on your phone until you’ve got it memorized...because this is a simple map that you can use to help determine which muscles need to be foam rolled the most in order to quickly restore muscular balance to your system. This is really important to do before starting a harder workout, going for a run, or anything like that because it affects your body's ability to move freely within a full range of motion.
Now I have to give a shout-out to one of my mentors and an amazing educator of Anatomy in Motion, Rocky Snyder. Rocky has mapped out foot pressures and foam rolling in way more detail than what I layout here, and he’s the one who inspired my focus and investigation this in the first place. If this is interesting to you then you’ll definitely want to check him out and read his book, “Return to Center”
So here’s what I suggest that you do. Grab your foam roller, take off your socks and shoes, and stand barefoot for a moment while you observe where the pressure is going in your feet. From there you’ll simply refer to this chart and use your foam roller to roll out the corresponding muscles that relate to where you feel the pressure in your feet. I suggest 5-10 ‘passes’ because we want to get some length, oxygen, and blood flow into the muscle that you’re rolling but we don’t want to overdo it because that can be counterproductive. Maybe 30 seconds to a minute at most. Then you're going to stand back up and recheck your foot pressures. It’s up to you if you do both sides or just one at a time before checking your foot pressures again, and that choice will make a difference so you might try both options over the course of a few days.
Even a subtle change can have big implications for movement potential, and it can add up over time. If you notice a slight improvement and a more balanced foot pressure after foam rolling then you can take that as immediate feedback that reinforces the efficacy of rolling that particular muscle. It should provide some good motivation to consider repeating that same exercise once or twice a day for a few weeks and see how things are feeling after that. I think you catch my drift, you’re on a roll now so keep it up and let me know what you discover.