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Our feet are the base of our body. They hold us and assure several critical functions. They are often neglected and treated like an “ungrateful” part of the body: you realise how much important they are especially when you happen to suffer from a problem that deprives you from using them/standing or when you suffer from different foot conditions that induce recurrent or permanent pain.
If they were looked after a little more closely, a lot of issues could be avoided. It starts with things as simple as good hygiene, a healthy lifestyle, a proper footwear and some regular well performed exercises.
Here we will focus on five exercises specifically selected to help you keep your foot strong and healthy.
(before starting exercising, make sure you don’t have any medical condition that could be emphasized by working out and also, start slowly and go at your rhythm, little by little, and if you feel any pain, stop exercising or reduce the intensity)
1. Walk barefoot
It’s really a modern contradiction: the nicer the shoes you wear, the weaker your foot can get. Indeed, it’s important to have good and adequate shoes, however, sometimes, foot with too much support, or not enough exercise, tend to become weak and loose their strength. When good shoes (or insoles/arch support) were a nice-to-have, they become compulsory. To avoid this dependence to external arch support and to improve the foot strength try to walk more often barefoot, at home for example: walk a little barefoot instead of slipping in straight away your slippers, you will feel the difference on walking on the floor wearing nothing.
2. Walk on different surfaces
Sand, rocks, grass or even your sofa or a folded blanket. Why would you do that ? for a simple reason: by walking (or running) on unstable surfaces, you need to use more muscles and ligaments, your balance as well needs to be on flick. In overall, it requires a greater effort from your whole body, hence the benefits. By doing this, you increase strength and flexibility.
3. Train your balance
Whether you hit the gym or not you might be familiar with bands, boards and balance trainers.
Those accessories are more and more present in the gyms (and in the homes) because they are useful for either localised or general trainings in a very gentle yet effective way. Bands can be used in different ways, for instance, you can attach the band to a heavy surface (or the wall, something that won’t move upon you pulling), pass your feet inside and pull gently towards you: this workout will be great for your toes. Boards are used more for the ankle part of the foot: they are inclined to 20/30 + degrees, you step on them and you try to stay straight, this will generate work on the rear part of your feet. Balance trainers are reserved for the more experienced ones with strong enough feet. All exercises will solicit a lot of small muscles making the use of a balance trainer very complete.
4. Heel raise
This exercise is pretty simple and can even be considered as a yoga exercise. Inhale when you raise your heels and exhale as you lower them. The slower the movement the better. You should try to get your heels as high as possible, hold the position for few seconds and then slowly lower them, feeling every part of your feet getting back on the floor independently.
As a small anecdote: you might know that the highest level of heel raise is the “pointe” that is the typical movement of the ballerinas. It is claimed that the prima ballerina assoluta Margot Fonteyn was even going downstairs in her home in pointe posture, and her last ballet was performed aged 66! You can imagine how strong her feet were. It’s a nice story on how making sure your feet are trained will keep them strong for a long time, but don’t try it at home: being able to perform pointes -even more on staircases- requires a lot of professional training.
5. Make your arches work
The foot arches are formed by bones, ligaments and tendons and they are essential to perform movements and have a certain flexibility. There are three arches: two longitudinal arches(from the back the front of each side) and one transverse that runs across the foot. It’s important to work out the flexibility of your feet to assure the arches are solicited. You can simply sit down, raise your feet slightly and turn them around (clockwise and then the other side) in gentle rotation, try still to open your foot as much as possible. This is to be done from the ankle level (not the whole leg).
We hope you enjoy doing those exercises. It’s really a small training that can bring you many benefits on the long run. You can always, most of the time, find solutions and relieve to your feet’s conditions and pains, but why not to try to avoid them in the first place? Those exercises are meant for anybody who does not suffer from a condition keeping him away from doing those exercises. They are simple, do not require heavy equipment and can be practiced almost anywhere and anytime. Take the chance to take care of your feet and of yourself! It will pay off as you go.