News from Around the Green

The latest golf-related news, notes, and feature stories from the TGA.

Golf Roll-Volution: Improve Your Feet

Fitness and golf enthusiasts have been foam rolling their bodies for years using smooth, spikey, bumpy, and even vibrating tools in search of more mobility and relief in tired, achy areas. Usage of these myofascial or massage tools has exploded among golfers.

For golfers, myofascial release can improve range of motion and body/mind connection. It also can decrease muscle fatigue, soreness, and aches. Maintaining healthy fascia is huge for tissue repair and regeneration for aging golfers, too.

Now visualize your full-body swing moving through great width, as you torque from the foot to fingers in a full-body stretch. The integrity and character of your fascia has a direct impact on your torque-ability to either fully lengthen or shorten your reach and can limit your movement. We now know more about the fascial and its impact on performance due to advances in testing on living tissue. Deep and superficial layers of fascia wrap around your organs, within muscles, and under the skin to connect your whole body.

Your fascia houses 250 million nerve endings that provide proprioceptive feedback for body awareness and muscle activation. Fascia stores energy, functions in force transmission and tissue repair for faster recovery for the body. We can aid the fascial function with direct force or pressure from squishy tools that can move fluids, move superficial and deep layers of fascia across each other, and make changes to the nervous system within the layers.

Let’s work on an important fascia for golfers—the plantar fascia. This “very popular” plantar fascia connects the heel to the base of the toes and when tight can create major pain and problems for foot and ankle mobility or function. But by using several self-guided techniques with rubber balls, such as applying direct pressure-and-relax, shearing force and twisting motions through the fascial layers, we can open more fluid flow, relax muscles, and unwind tension. When we down-regulate the nervous system, it speeds up recovery benefits, which can enhance future performance.

In today’s session for the plantar fascia, you’ll need to grab a squishy myofascial rubber ball or perhaps use a tennis ball as a substitute. Using a lacrosse ball or golf balls is not recommended, as the hardness of those balls will cause an undesirable bracing response from the nervous system. Instead use a cushy ball that grips the skin and pulls on the superficial layer of fascia to allow your muscles and fascia to respond, move, and relax.

Caution: Do not roll on injured or highly inflamed tissue or use heavy pressure during these suggested exercises. Consult with your doctor if you have plantar pain before doing any self-treatments.

Like any good scientist, let’s see if our rolling efforts work by doing a pre-check before the rolling and a re-check after the rolling. Compare the before and after results to see if the rolling helped create more foot function and ankle mobility. Use this process across many rolling sessions and you are highly likely to see improvements over weeks and months.

Your forward bend reach and golf posture are impacted by your foot fascia. Let’s check your mobility before and after the ball rolling.

Stand with your feet close together. Reach down to touch your toes by bending at the hip and knees. Keep your heels on the ground as you bend your knees. Measure how low your fingers or hands can reach. Jot down how far you can reach along the leg or how many inches you can reach from the floor.

1. Use the Pre-Check Protocol listed above before employing the rolling techniques on each foot.

2. Stand near a wall or furniture for support. Place a myofascial rubber ball (or tennis ball as a substitute) under your instep. Place your heel down and let the ball “mush” into your fascia for about a minute. Then begin slowly rolling into inversion and eversion maintaining a heel to floor connection for another minute.

3. Now reset the ball into the ball of the foot, repeat holding the pressure then do the inversion and eversion rolling process for another 1-2 minutes. Keep your heel in contact with the floor.

4. Place the ball against a wall with the great toe up against the ball allowing the other toes to touch the floor. Keep your hips over your foot to gain as much stretch as possible for 1 minute. Then slowly lift the heel while keeping the ball of the foot on the ground for an even greater stretch through the metatarsal-phalangeal joint of the great toe.

5. Repeat these 3 movements on the other foot.

6. Use the Re-Check Protocol to compare to your Pre-Check results.

Something as simple as using a rubber ball to move the superficial fascia, muscles, and deeper layers of fascia will bring great benefits to your plantar fascia. Over time, your fascia responds with greater relaxation, reduced tension, improved flexibility, and movement as it moves in new fluid and down regulates the achiness and tension from standing, walking, and generating ground forces during golf. Reach out to me here to get on the list to receive the Golf Roll-Volution Routines, my new free self-care routines for some of the key areas of the body for golf.

Pam Owens is the Director of Fitness for Royal Oaks Country Club in Houston and the owner of Pam Owens Fitness. A three-time Golf Digest Top 50 Fitness Professional, Pam helps golfers all over the world get lean, bendy, and powerful with online or in person coaching. For a free pre-golf activation routine and more resources, click here