Fixing the foot flop

Fixing the flop in your feet
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on June 9, 2015

Leslie Maxwell and Nancy Loughlin feet

Leslie Maxwell’s toes are straight up. Nancy Loughlin’s fall open.

“Lie back, relax and let your feet fall open.”

For years, I’ve heard yoga teachers say this prior to final relaxation.  I’ve said it myself and watched my students do it, but I won’t be saying it again.

The foot flop isn’t relaxation; it’s muscular imbalance.

“You do know your feet shouldn’t be like that, right?” personal trainer Magen Wooley asked me recently at Around the Clock Fitness.

Huh? I was lying on the floor being lazy. I lifted my head, and, sure enough, both of my feet had rolled open, my toes pointed outward and my inner thighs faced the ceiling. It’s not just at the gym.  My feet flop on the beach, sleep time, all supine occasions.

She explained, over time, the outward rotation of feet and legs could lead to lower back pain.

Legs roll open because internal rotators, such as the gluteus medius and maximus, need to be strengthened, and external rotators, including the piriformis and sartorius, need to be stretched.

I was skeptical, so Wooley, a competitive Women’s Physique Bodybuilder, hit the floor.  Her toes were straight up.

“This did take some practice,” she confessed.

It’s the poison and nectar conundrum. Sometimes what we think is comfortable is really a bad habit in disguise.

Strengthen internal rotators

Lunges. Do the Lunge Shuffle.  While watching your favorite 30-minute sitcom, stand to the right of the couch or chair.  Balance yourself with your left fingertips, step your left foot forward, lower your right knee toward the floor and rise.  Continue slow lunges for the first half of the show and then switch to the other side of the couch.

Squats.  Stand with your feet wider than hip distance apart and point your toes outward.  Bend your knees to 90 degrees. Hold a deep squat for three counts, squeezing your muscles and slowly rise.  Build repetitions.

Yoga poses.  Try this sequence: Warrior II, Warrior I, Warrior III and, when ready, Half Moon. Integrate Chair Pose, Locust Pose and Bridge into your practice.

Enjoy the gym’s StairMaster and adductor machines.

Stretch external rotators

Lie on your back with your legs straight.  Pull one knee into your chest, hold and then drop that knee across the body for a twist.  Switch.

While lying down with bent legs, soles on the floor, cross the left ankle over the right knee and pull the right leg to your chest.  Switch.

While lying on your back with your legs bent, slide a myofascial release ball or tennis ball under one buttock and roll.

Yoga poses:  Work sliding Tree Pose.  While balancing on one foot, slide the opposite foot along the inside of the standing leg and lower.  Practice Pigeon Pose, Standing Forward Bend, Twisted Triangle, Hero Pose, Supported Bridge and Low Lunge.

Yoga poses:

1 Chair pose

Anna Withrow demonstrates Chair Pose.


2 locust

Locust Pose.


3 Bridge (2)


4 Tree Pose


5 pigeon


6 standing forward

Forward Bend.

7 twisted triangle

Twisted Triangle.

8 hero's pose

Hero Pose.

9 supported bridge

Supported Bridge.

10 low lunge

Low Lunge.


4 thoughts on “Fixing the foot flop

  1. Sean

    My right foot has been falling out for many years now, and it’s clearly a problem with the hips and not lower limbs because my knee falls out also. That my right leg appears shorter, although isn’t, is another indication that I have an imbalance about my hips, as is the x-ray I recently had. Hence my searching for a way to correct this. It’s comforting that you have embraced Magen Wooley’s suggestion, but has the exercises worked for you? I do yoga 6 times a week, so can’t see how the above will make a difference because I’m already doing all these poses.

  2. Prudence Charles-Phillip

    I have a similar problem with have very muscles on the left side. I have pain in the hip and longer leg leg a well. There is some difficulty when walking after sitting for a while. I The right side is strong and without pain . My right shoulder is also higher than the left. I am not sure what is the problem. I will try some of the exercises. Let me know if you think they will help me.


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