Your feet and ankles each have 26 bones, 33 joints and 100+ muscles, ligaments and tendons. But when was the last time you worked out your feet? I'm betting a long time ago, probably never. Well, folks, your little tootsies play a major roll in how you walk, jog, stand, balance. So, I thought I'd share some insights and thoughts to improve, care and strengthen your feet.
- Look at your feet! Those corns, bunions and callouses are telling you things about your foot strike and gait. And when you try to walk to avoid the pain of them you alter your walking pattern which can trigger problems up the kinetic chain, like back pain and even TMJD. Best to visit a podiatrist, or at least do a little DIY foot care. Soaking your feet and sanding off those corns and callouses would be a good start. I'm fond of my glass foot file from Eye of the Find.
- Go barefoot. There's a lot of talk about barefoot running these days. It's not for everyone, because those who have funky foot issues can't do it. But if they had healthy happy feet, they probably could. I love it, but I only do it for short periods of time in the grass at my neighborhood park. I consider it cross training for me feet. It's amazing how much more the back line of the body (sole of the foot, calf, hamstrings, gluetes and spinal muscles) kicks in when you run barefoot. The way we were intended to run. (I'll be back later with more about barefoot running.)
- Towel pulls. Sit in a chair, place a towel on the floor, then grab and bunch up the the towel with your toes to pull it towards you. You can do this standing too, but I think you get more muscle activation sitting at first.
- Spread your toes. Try spreading your toes evenly out like you might do with your fingers. Easier said than done. As you progress, you can do it with a rubber band around your toes to resistance. You can also hold this stretch with yoga toes or just one of those toe spreader thingies you use to paint your toenails.
- Monkey feet--pick up things with your toes. Pencils, corks, forks, whatever floats your boat.
- Ballet, pilates, even swimming with flippers can work the muscles of your feet and calves.
- Stretch. The muscles in your calves play a role in your feet's happiness so remember to stretch them. Foam rolling helps too.
- Cross train your feet in different shoes, and no shoes. I avoid high heel shoes like the plague. But I wear lots of different styles of shoes that make my feet do different things. Flats, Keens, Danskos, ballet slippers. Not into the flip flops though. Seems like an unnatural way for the foot to work.
- Pilates reformer work. There is a series of exercises done on the reformer dedicated just to the feet. My clients find it really helps them with aches and pains, from the foot up.
- Balance work. From balance discs and the BOSU to slacklining, your feet effect your balance and vice versa. I suggest doing balance work barefoot when ever possible. Even just standing on a pillow, on one leg, with your eyes closed can challenge some.
- Don't smoke. Seriously. What you eat and smoking effects your circulatory system, which can leave you with cold feet and feet that take a long time to heal if injured.
- DIY foot massage. My clients absolutely love this trick. Cut a tennis ball in half, then place the halves on the ground dome side up. Now, walk on them. Spread the toes out. Walk and press the feet up one side and down the other. "hug" the domes with your arches. You'll be amazed at the stretching.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on feet. I'll be back with more ideas on exercises to reduce pain and make exercising in general more enjoyable! Thanks for stopping by!