If you’re looking for a solution to strengthen your feet and ankles, the AFX Ankle Foot Maximizer is an innovative tool that you should take a look at.
With the recent surge in popularity of barefoot / minimalistic running, strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot plays a key role in avoiding running injuries – whether you’re running in minimalistic or more traditional running shoes. The AFX can help strengthen these muscles while also helping rehabilitate and prevent common injuries such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis and more.
We were fortunate enough to have Matt Ferguson, President & CEO of Progressive Health Innovations and the maker of the AFX, answer a few questions about the AFX. Healthynomics would like to thank Matt for his time.
How did the idea for the AFX Ankle Foot maXimizer come about?
The AFX was borne out of one practitioner’s frustration with the traditional methods and products available for foot and ankle strengthening. One of my co-founders, Dr. Jordan Myers (Chiropractor), had a number of patients who needed adjustments to their feet and ankles. Jordan realized that while he could adjust a patient’s foot and relieve the pain, they also needed to strengthen their feet so that the adjustment was more effective and that over time, they would return to health.
Jordan went looking for a strengthening solution, and all he found were rubber bands/tubing that constantly slipped-off the foot, and a few devices that claimed to strengthen the ankle, yet didn’t allow the user to arch the foot and engage the intrinsic muscles of the foot which is critical for strengthening the entire foot and ankle complex. Seeing a need for a device, Jordan called long-time friend Rick Hall (MSc in Kinesiology) and they called me. At the time, I was working as the Medical Device Technology Manager in the technology transfer office at Simon Fraser University, where I was working with professors helping them bring their technologies to market.
Our goal was lofty, but simple: to build the best foot & ankle strengthening product in the world. The key design principals were that it had to be a complete strengthening solution through a full range of motion, it had to allow for stretching, and it had to be easy to use that anyone could use it and benefit from stronger feet.
What types of common injuries can the AFX help prevent and rehabilitate?
Numerous clinical studies have shown that strengthening the foot and ankle is critical in dealing with the most common foot and ankle injuries. AFX is used in the prevention and rehabilitation of:
- Ankle sprains
- Plantar fasciitis
- Shin splints
- Achilles tendinitis
- Toe and forefoot fractures
- Ankle fractures
- Lisfranc fracture
- Turf Toe
- Metatarsalgia (pain in ball of foot)
- Peroneal tendinitis
- Posterior tibial tendinitis
- Stress fractures
…basically any foot and ankle injury where strengthening and stretching is part of the return to health.
Explain how the AFX can help athletes. Are there any sports in particular where the AFX has been particularly beneficial?
For most athletes, strong feet and ankles are absolutely vital to their performance and yet, shockingly, it is often the weakest area of the body! We spend the vast majority of our time walking / running / playing on flat surfaces wearing flat, well-supported shoes that don’t allow us to adequately strengthen our feet and ankles. Most people are reasonably strong in plantarflexion (pushing the toes away from you with a rigid foot, like pressing the gas pedal in a car), but are disproportionally weak in inversion (rotating the foot inwards), eversion (rotating the foot outwards), dorsiflexion / toe extension (pulling the foot and toes toward the shin), and toe flexion (curling the toes toward the underside of the foot).
AFX enables athletes to strengthen the entire foot and ankle in a balanced fashion through a full range of motion, against resistance that can be easily increased or decreased, and allows you to focus your strengthening on two key areas. First, it enables you to mimic the functional movements you use on the field of play, so you can become stronger and more proficient at those movements. Second, and equally important, it enables you to strengthen those muscle groups that you don’t use to any great extent on the field of play, thereby avoiding problems that can arise from muscle imbalances and weaknesses. For example, a tennis player can perform toe flexion, inversion and eversion using high-speed movements and eccentric loading to improve their agility, quickness and explosiveness on the court. They then can easily strengthen their dorsiflexors and stretch their calf muscle through a full range of motion to reduce the risk of developing shin splints and Achilles issues.
In 2008, an independent athletic performance study was completed using AFX that involved the Men’s Varsity Basketball Teams at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. Over a 12-week period during their regular season, when athletic performance typically decreases, those players who used AFX had a significant increase in their dynamic balance and lateral stability, their agility improved, and their one-step vertical jump increased by an average of over 3 inches, compared to those players who didn’t use the AFX.
AFX is used by all types of athletes from all areas of sport and performance. It is used by gold medal winning Olympians, professional athletes, marathoners, dancers, weekend warriors, and the list goes on. If you use your feet to play a sport, strengthening using AFX can help.
Do you need to be a health care practitioner to use the AFX?
You definitely do not need to be a practitioner to use AFX (although if you have an injury we recommend you consult with a qualified healthcare professional!). In addition to the AFX being easy to use, we have made sure that all of our free instructional videos and programs are easy for everyone to follow. Each AFX comes fully assembled with a DVD that takes you through a strengthening program rep by rep, and even counts down how long you should hold each stretch. You can strap-in, and be strengthening in a matter of minutes. Also, it doesn’t take long to feel the results, just 8-10 minutes a foot, 3 times a week and you are well on your way.
What unique benefits does the AFX provide over more traditional foot and ankle strengthening exercises?
Prior to AFX, traditional foot and ankle strengthening was completed using rubber
bands/tubing, towels and modified exercises. It involved having to move into a myriad of awkward positions, and the bands constantly slipped off or rolled down to the arch of your foot, so the end result was that it was it was complex, confusing and ultimately ineffective.
AFX has several features that make it technically superior and easier to use than traditional equipment:
Flexible Foot Support: Strong yet comfortable, the flexible foot support provides excellent grip, allows the user to arch or extend the foot and toes, strengthen intrinsic muscles, and ensures proper anatomical alignment regardless of foot length so that you can target specific muscle groups.
Innovative Resistance System: A variety of resistance bands allow for complete, balanced strengthening from early stage rehabilitation to high-performance athletic training.
Multi-Directional Strengthening: The AFX design allows you to strengthen through a complete range of motion, safely and effectively – something other weight-bearing devices and exercises can’t offer.
Functional Strengthening: AFX’s resistance system, foot support and multi-directional strengthening enable you to mirror movements that are specific to your sport or activity. It also allows for cutting-edge training techniques, including eccentric loading.
Versatile Stretching: As much as the foot and ankle need to be strong through the full range of motion, they also need to be flexible through the entire range to reduce the risk of injury and allow for optimal performance.The components of AFX combine to make it a superior stretching device.
Easy-To-Use: AFX has been designed with the user in mind – just strap in and go!
What’s next for the AFX?
Our immediate goal is to continue to raise awareness about the importance of foot and ankle strengthening not only for athletes, but for everyone from kids to seniors, and I think that the timing is perfect. The barefoot / minimalist running debate has started getting people to think about their feet, and we are seeing the medical community starting to focus on muscle imbalances and biomechanical issues as a major contributing factor to the most common foot and ankle injuries.
Longer-term, we will continue to support independent research on foot and ankle strengthening, specifically focusing on some of the most common injuries and ailments. We also have other versions of AFX for which we have developed prototypes, but we have no definitive dates for their launch.
Where can I buy the AFX?
Foot Forward Training Systems