Foot Exercises for a Healthy Foundation
When learning to play the piano, you need to run your fingers across the keys over and over to build up their strength and establish your muscle memory for the music. If you want to improve foot strength, you can repeat certain movements in the same way. Remember though: practice makes permanent—but not always perfect! Make sure you are doing the foot exercises correctly from the start.
Preparing for Exercise Is a Major Key to Success
“Too much, too soon” is a recurring theme in failed exercise programs. You overdo, hurt yourself, become discouraged, and quit. Here’s how to keep yourself out of this downward spiral:
- Check with us to make sure you are ready to start an exercise program for your feet and legs, whether to recover after an injury or surgery, or as part of an overall fitness program.
- Educate yourself. If you don’t understand how to do a certain stretch, ask a trainer—or one of our podiatrists—to explain it and how it benefits you, and to help you do it the right way.
- Warm up before you get into your routine, so as to loosen up your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and avoid straining them. Every session should follow this pattern: warm up, stretch, foot exercises, cool down, and stretch again.
- Avoid pain! There is this culture out there that claims “no pain, no gain,” but be countercultural. Exercises should not hurt you. If they do, you are either doing something the wrong way, or doing it too much.
Helping Your Muscles Make Beautiful Music Together
So many injuries—both acute and overuse types—are caused by tight muscles. Extrinsic muscles connect in your leg at one end and your foot at the other, such as the soleus ones in your calf. Intrinsic ones have both ends within your feet, like those that move your toes sideways. All of them need to be worked on.
Any muscle can atrophy when it is not used—whether because of a cast, tight shoes that limit movement, or nerve conditions. If the muscle has lost mass and function, you need to start using it again to regain full ability to move. Since your feet contain about a fourth of the muscles in your body, you want to do all you can to improve foot strength as part of your overall health. Foot exercises and stretches can improve the stability of your foundation. Following are some to try:
Tiptoe Through the Tulips for Your Toes
Lift up your toes one by one. Yes, it’s hard at first, but keep practicing until you get the big toe up by itself, and then the others one by one to your pinky toe. Then lay them down again in reverse order.
Counter the inward pressure from shoes by standing back on your heels and spreading your toes out as wide as you can along the floor.
Now place one leg back a little, with the top of your foot resting on the floor. Let it sag down a bit so the front of the ankle is stretched out.
Next try to pick up small objects by curling your toes down. You can also try pulling a towel under your foot using your toes. Then massage the bottom of your foot by rolling it over a golf ball.
Finally, walk around barefoot occasionally. It will help you feel the surface better and work the muscles that help you balance.
Foot Exercises to Keep Your Heel and Ankle Humming
You can use wall stretches, heel drops, and calf raises to stretch the muscles in the back of your legs and feet. Another method is to sit on the floor and loop a towel around your foot, pulling it toward you gently.
To work the ankle, sit on a tall stool and trace the alphabet with your dangling feet, or use a resistance band to pull the ankle toward your or point it away.
Contact Aadvanced Foot Care Associates in Rego Park (718) 896-4433, Plainview (516) 822-9595, or Flushing, NY (718) 969-2266 for more exercises. We’ll put our 100 years of foot care know-how to work for you!