The debate between toes straight versus toes out during squats continues to rage on and I felt it appropriate to see what Kelly Starrett had to say about it. After consulting his book Supple Leopard, Starrett is very clear on his position: the goal is for the athlete’s toes is to point straight ahead. He views toes out as a shortcut to the goal of a full depth squat. The reason why people choose this approach is clear: turning out one’s feet opens up the hip joint. It also enables athletes to push their knees out farther and more easily. However this adjustment doesn’t come without a cost. Starrett identifies at least two shortcomings: it reduces torque and it helps to ingrain poor movement patterns in that athlete that will transfer over to other movements like jumping or even walking. Furthermore, overcompensation of the foot can cause the ankles and knees to cave and potentially cause injury in the ACL and MCL of the knee as well as the Achilles.
So what does this mean for our athletes? As coaches I think we should encourage our athletes to strive for a toes-straight, full-depth squat. Doing so will enable them to harness the power of torque, build strong movement patterns, and prevent injury. Squat therapy is an excellent time to work on this positioning. Just as we encourage our athletes get their toes as close to the wall as possible, we should also encourage them to keep their toes as forward as possible. If they struggle to do that we should encourage them to work on ankle mobility with voodoo banding or banded ankle distraction drills. They should also work on opening their hips with pigeon’s pose, the Olympic wall squat, and other mobility exercises. Above all else, our goal as coaches should be to instill proper movement in our athletes because proper movement is healthy movement.