Mix and match during the week, or daily if you are a runner
We take our joints for granted until they're injured. None more so than our feet.
Our feet have 26 bones (25 percent of all bones in the human body are in the feet), 33 joints, and more than 80 tendons and ligaments. There are also 20 main muscles, each with different actions and jobs that help us walk, run, jump and stand.
These muscles can become weakened, tightened and inflamed just from our everyday activities. There is a lot that can go wrong - a lot of attached parts that can transmit stress through the entire foot and into our leg, hips and lower back.
That's why keeping our feet flexible and strong is worth a little extra effort. This effort not only helps reduce foot and ankle pain but also strengthen the tendons and improves our mobility and gait.
More foot strength and mobility, less pain
That's important to me because I've been running 5km daily for nearly a year. I need strength and mobility in my feet so I can run through little pains and niggles and still run injury-free by fine-tuning my movement.
At my age - 73 - there are always little twitches and pains to work through. The only way to prepare for those is to build muscular strength, muscular endurance, and with serious attention to warming-up and stretching.
For example, I let the first 1km of each run dictate the remainder of my daily run. Despite warming up for 10 minutes, it is only when I start running that my feet, knees, legs and hips and head tell me what adjustments they require to remain injury-free.
Based on that feedback, I've decided to pay more specific attention to exercising my feet. Here are seven specific foot exercises that I'm using, and you may also find them helpful, especially if you run.
I find these practical and easy to build into a typical day. I do 3 or 4 from the six each day.
Six fantastic foot exercises
#1 Towel Stretch
I do a short set of mobility exercises when I get up each morning, and I often do this towel stretch at the finish.
#2 Toe-to-Heel Rocks
These will condition and strengthen your legs, lower body and lower legs, as it works calves, as well as the muscles and joints in your feet. It's also good for your balance if you do it unsupported.
#3 Marble Pickup
Here is a fabulously frustrating exercise, which is fantastic for our feet:
This exercise will seriously improve the flexibility and stability of your feet and their strength. Initially, you will feel the strain in all the little stabiliser muscles as they get exercise which they have not had in a long time.
Do this two or three times a week. It's a comfortable one to do while watching TV!
#4 Ankle Dorsiflexion
Dorsiflexion means pulling the upper surface towards you. In this case, the upper surface of your foot or ankle.
If you are runner and have ever twisted your ankle, you may have a reduced dorsiflexion range of motion. You may not even know it.
But it will reduce your ability to deliver forward-power from your rear leg. This is because the stored energy storage release from your Achilles tendon will drive you relatively more upward than forward.
If you cannot squat deeply or need to elevate your heels to squat you likely have a restricted dorsiflexion range of motion.
Repeat 10 times for each foot. You can do this daily, as I do after I run.
You may have recognised that this exercise is one you see wherever people are running. It's mostly done by standing close to a wall on your heels with the balls of your feet on the wall, and pushing, with a straight leg, towards the wall. That's an excellent way to do it if you don't have a band.
You could also do it isometrically. Just sit on the floor with your legs out, draw your toes in towards you, squeeze hard in that position for hold for 8 seconds and release. Do it ten times for each foot.
#5 Plantar Flexion
Plantar flexion is a movement in which the top of your foot points away from your leg. You use plantar flexion whenever you stand on the tip of your toes or point your toes.
Every person's natural range of movement in this position is different, just as for the dorsiflexion range of motion. This stretch aims to increase the range of motion to improve mobility.
Repeat 10 times for each foot.
#6 Ball Lift
This exercise requires foot strength, inner leg strength, and will challenge a host of your stabiliser muscles. It is simple but effective.
Hold for 5 seconds then slowly lower. Repeat 10 times.
Add intensity by raising to the count of 4 and lowering to the count of 8.
Better feet, better life!
Exercising your feet will help them gain strength, mobility and flexibility. You will be less prone to injury, especially if you are a runner.
They say that strengthening your feet can be just as rewarding as strengthening other parts of the body. Give it a try and let me know.
RELATED: Avoid Ankle Injuries And Balance Better With These Four Everyday Simple Exercises
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No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or another qualified clinician. Disclaimer.
Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter