The muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, and joints in and around your feet play a significant role in your mobility, including your ability to walk, run, jog, kick, and sprint. Your feet and ankles are designed to be fairly resilient, which is why foot-related pain is usually a temporary inconvenience. Even so, there are proactive steps you can take to reduce your odds of being distracted by discomfort in or around your feet. If foot exercises aren’t yet part of your regular routine, here are some easy-to-do exercises that can help keep your feet healthy.
1. Toe Points, Curls, and Rises
Minimize your risk of developing arthritis or other progressive conditions that may affect your toes with exercises that promote joint flexibility. One way to do this is with a three-stage toe exercise. Sit on a chair with your feet on the floor. With your toes remaining in place, slowly raise your heel off the ground while keeping the balls of feet touching the floor. The second stage is done by raising your heels so only your first and second toes are still on the ground. The final step is to raise your heels and curl your toes inward.
2. Big Toe Stretches
The purpose of this exercise is to stretch big toes that may be cramped by the shoes you wear on a regular basis. Sit on a chair and bring one foot over to your thigh so you can reach the big toe on that foot. Gently stretch your big toe in multiple directions. Repeat with your other foot.
3. Sand Walking
With this exercise, you’ll have a good excuse to head to your nearest beach. All you do is go to a sandy beach, take off your shoes, and walk around. Barefoot walking on sand helps strengthen your calf muscles and the soft tissues and joints in your feet.
4. Golf Ball Rolls
If you’re dealing with mild discomfort from plantar fasciitis, one exercise that may provide some relief is golf ball rolls. Sit on a chair with feet on floor. Place a firm golf ball or a fabric-covered tennis ball by your foot. Place your foot on top of the ball and roll it around for a few minutes. Roll the ball around every part of the bottom of each foot to relax muscles and other tissues. Another option is to use a chilled water bottle. This can also have added therapeutic benefits.
5. Achilles Stretches
Connecting the heel and calf muscles, the Achilles tendon needs to be strong in order to maintain foot stability and balance. An Achilles stretch is done by facing a wall and placing your raised arms against it. Keep one knee straight and bend the other one as you place one foot back. Push your hips forward with both of your heels on the floor. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and switch sides.
In addition to these foot-specific exercises, activities like regular walking and stair climbing can be good for your feet in some ways that may not be so obvious. For instance, making more of an effort to walk could help keep your weight in check, which means less pressure on your ankles and feet. In general, regular physical activity can also reduce your risk of experiencing diabetes, high blood pressure, and similar conditions that can affect the circulation in your feet.