“OMG Alison, your knee is moving past your toes.” Uh huh. And?

Actually, each of our knees pass our toes numerous times every single day — every time you walk up or down stairs, pick something up off the floor, run, and ride a bike. When we were kids, we’d park our little butts at the bottom of a squat for extended periods of time with our knees well past our toes. I don’t know about you, but my mama certainly never yanked me out of that position and told me that it would ruin my knees.

Studies have shown that while knee stress increases by about 28% when you let your knees move past your toes in a squat (still well within the limits of what the knee can handle), not letting your knees move past your toes can increase the stress placed on your hips by 1000% which puts significantly greater stress on your lower back.

Because we know life already demands that we be able to move our knees past our toes, we’d better get good at doing it. And the only way to increase your knees’ ability to tolerate stress is to expose them to that specific type of stress in a way that is manageable now and then increase the challenge progressively over time. Altogether avoiding movements that bother your knees isn’t how you teach you knees to get better at moving.

So, worry less about whether your knees are forward of your toes and instead focus on these aspects:

(1) Don’t force your knees to move forward but don’t restrict them from moving that way either. Basically, focus on starting the movement from your hips and let your knees move as far forward as they need to to get you into your squat.

(2) Do not let your knees collapse inward. Keep your knee and ankle aligned with each other. For most of us, this means that the knee travels out over your second and third toes so you’ll probably have to drive your knees outward as you lower to maintain that alignment.

(3) Keep your heel, the base of your big toe, and the base of your pinky toe firmly pressing into the floor. Don’t let any part of this tripod lift — especially your heels. Your whole foot needs to be fully engaged with the floor through the entire range of motion.

Questions? Ask me in the comments below.

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