Five Great Stretches for Healthier Feet
Posted by Jenn F. on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
If you run or do any other kind of physical activity, you’ve probably been told over and over to stretch, warm up, stretch, cool down, stretch, stretch, stretch. Most of these stretches target our legs, hamstrings, backs, triceps, or shoulders, but how about our feet? Foot muscles are muscles just like anywhere else in your body, and they can benefit from stretching, too.
Here are some stretches that can help your feet if you’re a runner, play a running-heavy sport, or even if you just wear high heels a lot:
- Downward-facing Dog Yes, the old yoga standby. There are several ways to get into this pose, but I think this is the easiest. Get into a standard plank position, as if you were just about to begin a push up–hands in front of you, arms straight, back straight, legs straight, and toes bent, so you’re on the balls of your feet. Then lift your hips so your body forms an upside down “V.” Keep your toes bent but push down with your heels so you feel a stretch in your calf muscles and the arches of your feet. Hold for about 10-15 seconds, then lower down to the plank, hold that for a few seconds, and then go back up to downward dog. Repeat three or four more times (and yes, my dog does this stretch all the time).
- Towel Stretch Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and your feet flexed, toes pointed straight up. Take a small towel and hold one end in each hand. Loop the middle of the towel across the ball of one foot, and pull back gently so you feel the stretch in your calf muscles. Hold for about thirty seconds, then relax and switch to the other foot.
- Step stretch Stand on a step and back up until your heels are hanging off the edge of the step (tip: you’ll know you’re facing in the wrong direction if you back up and just find more step rather than air; double tip: don’t back up so much you fall off). Push one heel downward so you feel a stretch in your calf. Hold this for about ten to fifteen seconds, then switch to your other heel. Do this about three to five times on each foot. I usually do this on the steps of my building when I finish running; you can also do it on a curb. Hold onto a railing, wall, or lamppost for balance if necessary.
(I know, you’re thinking, what’s up with all the calf stretching when this is supposed to be about foot stretches? Well, tight calf muscles can cause a variety of foot injuries, including plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. Stretching your calf muscles stretches while you stretch your foot is good for your feet.)
- Foot rolls Stand with your toes pointed straight ahead, hip width apart. Shift your weight to your right heel, then roll your weight forward through your right foot along the outside edge of it until your weight is on your forefoot. Continue the roll back along the inside of your foot until you’re back on your heel again; it’s as if you’re rolling around an oval with your foot. Repeat on the other foot. Do about ten on each side this way, then do ten reversing the roll, starting at the heel and rolling into the inside of the arch.
- Ankle stretch Stand with your toes pointed straight ahead. If you need some balancing help, rest a hand on a chair or table (I often need balancing help!). Cross your left ankle over your right ankle, and point the toes of your left foot down to your right, so the tips of your toes are just touching the floor. Bend your right knee so your right shin is pushing into your left heel, enough to feel a stretch in your ankle and along the top of your left foot. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then relax and repeat on that side again. Then switch to the other side to stretch your right foot.
There you go, some stretches so your feet don’t feel neglected! Make them as much a part of your morning routine as a good cup of coffee and your feet will be on their way to better strength and flexibility. Keep in mind that these stretches should feel good; if you feel any pain in your foot or ankle while stretching or doing anything else, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) to have your foot checked out. Feet hurt for a reason–find out why!
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.