Neutral Heel Position
The neutral heel position is a fundamental concept of the program. Controlling the heel position helps raise the height of the arch and reduces pronation.
Many of the exercises in the program are performed with the heel in what’s called the neutral position. You’ll also see the term mentioned in the other guides in the membership area.
So it’s important to understand what the neutral heel position means and how it is different from an everted heel position.
Neutral Heel vs. Everted Heel Position
People with flat feet often stand with their heels in an outward facing or everted position. This is usually a sign that the foot is pronating too much.
This straight up and down position of the back of the foot is what I refer to as a neutral heel.
The goal is to make the neutral position the natural position of the heels in standing.
Getting Into Neutral
There are several ways to go about finding the neutral position. For me, the easiest way was to shift weight or roll toward the outside edges of the feet. The video below demonstrates this method.
Using a mirror or a camera placed behind the feet can be helpful for finding the neutral position.
When I started working on this, it was easy to over-correct or roll too far to the outside edge of the foot. Going past neutral brings the heels into what is called inversion.
That’s why being able to see the heels from the back is helpful. With the heel in neutral the Achilles tendon looks like a straight line running up and down.
A way to avoid inverting the heel too much (without a mirror) is to shift weight to the outside edges of the feet while making sure the base of the big toe stays on the ground.
Exercises to Improve Neutral Heel Position
What was most helpful for reinforcing the neutral heel position was simply trying to maintain the position as much as possible — whether sitting, standing, or walking.
Consistency is the key, so as often as possible I was thinking about keeping pressure more toward the outside edges of the feet.
I attempted several exercises that are meant to target the posterior tibialis muscle (a muscle that inverts the heel) but didn’t find much benefit from a lot of them. The one I found most helpful for targeting the heel inversion movement was the sole-to-sole exercise.
- Start by rolling the ankles towards the outside edge of the feet so the little toes move as far away from each other as possible without moving the rest of the leg.
- Then, change direction and roll the ankles towards the inside edge of the feet so that the bottoms of the feet face each other.
Walking on Outside Edges of Feet
Another good exercise was trying to walk with weight shifting toward the outside edge of the feet. This is one of the exercises from the walking drills.
I would walk 25-50 steps forward and backward like this. Again, making sure the bottom of the big toe was still on the ground to avoid over-correcting.
Improving Flexibility and Strength
Neutral Heel and Supinatus
One of the reasons I knew my right foot had supinatus was because when the right heel was neutral and the foot was relaxed, the inside of the forefoot (including the base of the big toe) was raised slightly off the ground.
I was able to push it down with some effort while keeping the heel neutral, but the long-term solution to this was to fix the supinatus.
Controlling Heel Position
The heel naturally everts with walking and running as part of the pronation movement of the foot. A certain amount of pronation is normal and acts as a form of shock absorption.
When the foot is functioning well, it will supinate (the opposite of pronate) and the heel will invert back to neutral when the foot starts to raise off the ground while walking.
The problem arises when the heel immediately goes into eversion when weight is put of the foot. Or if it stays in an everted position even when weight is being transferred off the foot.
In order to improve this, three things must happen:
- the muscles that control the position of the heel must be strengthened,
- the muscles the stabilize the front of the foot on the ground must be strengthened,
- and any issues that are forcing the foot to pronate must be addressed (e.g. tight calf muscles).
Trying to force the heel to stay neutral all the time is not a good strategy until all these areas are addressed.
These topics will be covered in the next several guides.
In the beginning, it’s enough to learn how to get into the neutral heel position.