The human foot is made of 26 bones and approximately 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It is also the part of the body that bears the most weight, so it is not uncommon to suffer from foot pain or diagnosed foot problems at some point in your life. Painful foot problems include bunions, pronation, fallen arches, hammertoes, plantar fasciitis and tight, cramping muscles. You can fix many of these problems by performing foot exercises to stretch the muscles and reduce tension.
Performing Foot Strengthening Exercises
1. Seek advice. If you are experiencing foot or ankle pain, you need to get advice from your doctor or podiatrist. If the pain does not go away, even with rest, ice, and elevation, you may have a fracture. This is even more likely if there is swelling, bruising, or discoloration. You will need to seek medical treatment and get an X-ray to confirm or rule out this possibility.
2. Try toe lifts. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your big toe up off the floor slightly while leaving the other four down. Practice this to the point where you can eventually raise up all five toes, one at the time, beginning with the big toe and ending with the fifth toe. Then practice lowering each toe one at a time, beginning with the fifth toe and ending with the big toe. Do two sets of 15.
3. Do toe curls. Place a towel on the ground under your right foot. Stretch your toes out and pull them back in to grip the material with your toes. Lift the cloth one to two inches off the ground and hold for five seconds. Lower it to the ground. Repeat five times. Then repeat on the left side.
4. Pick up marbles. Place 20 marbles and a small bowl on the ground. Sit on the couch or in a chair, relaxed all the way back. With one foot, pick up one marble at a time and place it in the bowl. Then empty the marbles out and do the same thing with your other foot. This exercise will strengthen the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles in the feet. It is also helpful for plantar fasciitis but also for injuries like turf toe, a term use for injury to the great toe caused by hyperextension.
5. Write the alphabet. Sit on the couch, relaxed against the back. Extend one of your legs and raise one foot several inches off the ground. Trace the alphabet in the air using your big toe as a “pencil.” Then switch legs and do the same with the opposite big toe. This exercise helps to strengthen the extensor and flexor muscles in the foot.
6. Do a toe extension. Wrap a rubber band around the middle of all five of your toes on your right foot. It should have medium resistance so that it will give slightly. Stretch all of your toes apart. This will cause the band to stretch as far as it will go. Hold the stretch for five seconds and then relax your toes. Perform this stretch five times on each foot.
7. Try a big toe pull. Loop the rubber band between the big toe on your right foot and the big toe on your left. Place your feet together. Pull your toes apart while trying to keep your ankles together. Stretch the rubber band as far as you can, then relax. Relax for five seconds in between stretches and repeat five times.
8. Do resistant ankle inversion. Sit on the floor with legs stretched out in front of you. Attach one end of a therapy band to a stationary object, such as the leg of a heavy table.
9. Perform resistant ankle eversion. This exercise is very similar to the inversion. Sit on the floor with legs stretched out in front of you. With the band in the same position as with the inversion, move the loop of the resistance band down so that it is against the arch of the foot instead of the ball. Move your foot up and out against the therapy band.
10. Do calf raises. Stand straight in front of a wall, counter, or other stable object. Place your hands gently on the wall in front of you.
Doing Foot and Ankle Stretching Exercises
1. Test your ankle range of motion. Sit with your legs stretched straight out in front of you.
2. Do plantar flexion. This stretch is similar to the warm up, but it is a more targeted stretch.
3. Try dorsiflexion. Sit in a chair and flex your right foot. Loop a large towel under your foot.
4. Do an Achilles stretch. Stand on a stair. Move until you are only standing on the stair with the balls of your feet. Hold onto the railings or wall on both sides for balance.
5. Perform a standing calf stretch. Stand facing the wall with hands resting on the wall for balance.
6. Stretch your toe flexors. Stand facing the wall, placing your hands on the wall for balance.
Massaging Your Feet
1. Know the importance of massage. Doctors and clinics such as the Sports Injuries Clinic endorse foot massage.
2. Perform a ball roll. Sit on a chair and place a tennis, lacrosse, or golf ball under the ball of your right foot (a tennis ball is probably the most comfortable for your foot).
3. Give yourself a plantar fascia massage. While sitting on the chair, place your right foot on top of your left thigh.