Our feet provide the base of support for every step we take and the majority of our everyday tasks but are largely forgotten when it comes to strengthening! Just like a foundation that’s carefully engineered to support the bridges and buildings around us, our feet are designed to do the same for our bodies. We tend to thank these incredible body structures by cramming them into ill-fitting, albeit stylish footwear and tight fitting socks which end up preventing the joints from being able to move in their natural range.
Did you know there are 3 main arches, 33 joints and 29 muscles associated with the foot?! When the joints aren’t moving optimally, the deep (intrinsic) foot muscles aren’t able to work optimally and can become deconditioned over time. We can experience foot pain, plantar fasciitis and bunions as well as issues further up the chain at the ankle, knee, hip, low back and even the shoulders and neck. Sounds like it’s time to give your feet some love and respect!
Check out these 3 *simple* exercises you can start to incorporate right now to improve your foundation and keep it strong and stable!
Exercise 1: Big Toe Lifts
How To: Just as it sounds, aim to raise your big toe while keeping the other toes flat on the floor. Key tips for success: Watch that you don’t allow the foot to roll out as you lift the big toe. Also, avoid scrunching up the other toes as you perform this – aim to keep them relaxed.
Exercise 2: 4 Toes Lifts
How To: Keep the big toe touching the floor while lifting the other 4 toes up towards the ceiling.
Key tip for success: Keep the arch strong as you move the toes – don’t allow the foot to roll inward while lifting the toes up.
*If you find these movements too difficult, you can use a hand or your opposite foot to “block” the toes that aren’t designed to move, allowing you to better move the desired toe.
The more you practice, the better you’ll be able to isolate the toes and the better the range of motion you’ll be able to access!
The Most Powerful Foot Exercise You’re NOT Doing – Short Foot!
Short Foot: This is an integrated exercise, meaning that it incredibly connects the foot to the deep core via the deep front fascial line.
- Start by finding the “foot tripod”. The 3 points of the foot tripod are the base of the big toe, the base of the 5th toe and the heel bone
- Lift the toes, spread them out, and place them back down
- Gently press the tips of all 5 toes into the ground. You’ll start to notice the foot appear to be getting shorter!
Key Tips for Success: Focus on the feeling!
- Start to feel the base of the big toe (first metatarsal head) rise from the floor
- Feel the muscles in the bottom of the foot start working – the flexors and the plantar fascia
- You’ll feel and even see an increase in the height of your medial arch AND your lateral arch AND your transverse arch! Be careful NOT to scrunch up the toes – keep all toes flat on the floor with the motion coming from the arches.
*Forewarning: You may find these exercises more difficult to perform than you would have thought! We’ve all heard that if you don’t use it, you lose it right? Well, our brains can actually lose the neurological connection to the muscles of our feet, and compensations start to occur. The good news is that we can “re-connect” to the muscles of the feet through exercise and we can absolutely improve foot strength and stability from the ground up! Keep trying, and your motion will improve as the neural connections to your foot improve.
As always, your PhysioDNA team is here to support you and welcome you to reach out if you have any questions or concerns!