Climbers know that foot technique is very important. Any web search reveals results like: "7 Simple Drills To Improve Footwork" or "10 Ways To Improve Your Bouldering Footwork". These are all well and good, but what about intrinsic foot strength? A similar search for "Rock Climbing Foot Strength" reveals exercises for the legs, but still is void of anything concrete to develop and maintain strength in the feet and ankles. I know most surly climbers will say "just climb more" or "just wear a stiffer shoe". This doesn't help the weekend climber with no access to a local climbing gym or even the budget conscious climber that is a only fair weather outdoor enthusiast. There is also the person who is a beginner that wants to get a leg up on progress (pun intended) and, well, foot strength is a liability. If you look for help to build rock climbing finger strength online, there is a sizable amount of information to build up strength in the hands and fingers when one is not climbing. Rock climbing foot strength exercises? Squat... Bupkis... Goose egg...
When I started climbing, I struggled with easy routes. "Using my legs" was frankly a challenge because of the lack of requisite strength in my forefoot. Yes, I would slip off holds because of poor technique, but also due to my very mobile and weak toes. Well, weak feet really. My shoes would frequently approach a 90 degree angle at the big toe joint when under load - unless I could get the ball of my foot on a hold!!! This was definitely not going to work. So, I used my background to develop series of strengthening exercises specific to my rock climbing desires. Who knew I had such weak feet?
I am using this post as a starting point to give some tips on what you could do to integrate intrinsic foot strengthening into your training regimen. There are two videos below with the same basic premise of developing toe flexor strength while articulating through the ankle. Each has advantages and disadvantages - I do both. There are more options not encompassed here as well. Further, this could help hikers & backpackers who favor nimble movement with trail running shoes over stiff hiking boots. More to come in the future postings.
Bosu Foot / Ankle Mobilizations
(a bit long, but I wanted to err on more information than not enough.)
Toe Squat Loaded Mobilizations
(showcasing me in skinny shorts, don't get too excited!)