Picornavirus RNAs initiate translation using a 5' end-independent mechanism based on internal ribosome entry site (IRES) elements. Despite performing similar functions, IRES elements present in genetically distant RNAs differ in primary sequence, RNA secondary structure and trans-acting factors requirement. The lack of conserved features amongst IRESs represents obstacles for the understanding of the internal initiation process. RNA structure is tightly linked to picornavirus IRES activity, consistent with the conservation of RNA motifs. This study extends the functional relevance of evolutionary conserved motifs of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) IRES. SHAPE structural analysis of mutant IRESs revealed local changes in RNA flexibility indicating the existence of an interactive structure constrained by lateral bulges that maintain the RNA conformation necessary for IRES-mediated translation.