Many people, and runners, in particular, experience intermittent leg pain that is based on the foot and ankle. Strengthening the feet can help relieve soreness, improve overall health, and increase the flexibility and elasticity of muscle tissue.
The key to success and pain relief is regular exercise and proper stretching techniques for the feet and ankles. An integrated approach will allow the muscles to fully exercise their supportive function.
Most of the exercises presented are easy to perform and do not require the use of special equipment. They can be performed both at home and in the gym as part of your daily workout.
Exercises for flexibility and mobility of the feet
These exercises are specifically designed to work on muscle flexibility and joint mobility.
1. Rise on toes and twisting
This exercise has 3 steps and will help strengthen all parts of the foot and toes.
Sit on a chair with your back straight and your feet on the floor. Without lifting your toes off the floor, lift your heels. The top of the foot, near the toes, remains on the floor. Hold this position for 5 seconds before lowering your heels.
In the second step, lift your heel so that the tips of your thumb and second toe are on the floor. Lock this position for 5 seconds.
In the third step, lift your heel and bend your toes inward so that only the tips of your toes touch the floor. Hold this position of the foot for 5 seconds. Complete each step 10 times.
2. Thumb stretch
The big toe helps the person to maintain balance when walking and standing, and special attention should be paid to its mobility. The following exercise also consists of three steps and was designed to provide flexibility and relieve pain in the toes caused, in particular, by uncomfortable shoes.
Sit on a chair with your back straight and your feet on the floor. Place your left foot on your right thigh. Using your fingers, gently pull your thumb up, down, and to the side. Remain in this position for 5 seconds. Set 1 includes 10 reps. Then do the exercise on the other leg.
Exercises for the strength of the feet
3. Flexible toe
Exercise allows you to develop well the mobility and strength of the muscles and tendons responsible for the movement of the toes. You can do it on both legs at once or alternately, depending on your convenience.
Sit on a chair with your back straight and your feet on the floor. Spread your toes as far apart as possible, while avoiding undue stress. Hold the position for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
After doing this exercise regularly, try putting an elastic band on your fingers. This will provide resistance and make the exercise more challenging.
4. Twisting the socks
Twisting the toes strengthens the flexor muscles, increasing the elasticity and strength of the muscle fibers.
Sit on a chair with your back straight and your feet on the floor. Place a small towel on the floor in front of you, with the short side towards your feet. Place your toes on the short side of the towel. Try grabbing the towel with your toes and pulling it towards you.
Repeat the exercise 5 times on each leg. A more difficult version of the exercise is performed with a towel on which a small weight is attached.
5. Exercise with balls
This complex is designed to increase the strength of the muscles located in the foot and for the toes.
Sit on a chair with your back straight and your feet on the floor. Place an empty bowl and container of balls in front of you (20 balls will be enough to start with). Using only the toes of one foot, take each bead and place it in an empty cup. Repeat the exercise on the other leg.
6. Walking on the sand
Walking barefoot in the sand is a great way to stretch and strengthen your feet and calf muscles. This is a beneficial exercise in general, as the soft and pliable texture of the sand makes walking more physiological and engages all the muscles of the ankle.
You can go to the beach, to the volleyball court, or even purchase special sand set for your home. Be sure to take off your shoes and socks and go out for as long as possible. Increase the distance traveled gradually to avoid overextension of the leg and calf muscles.
Exercises for foot pain
7. Stretching the fingers
This stretch helps prevent or treat plantar fasciitis, a condition that causes heel pain when walking and difficulty moving your toes.
Sit on a chair with your back straight and your feet on the floor. Place your left foot on your right thigh. Pull your fingers towards your ankle. A stretching sensation should appear along the bottom of the foot, towards the heel. Hold the position for 10 seconds.
If you experience pain or excessive tension during stretching, massage the midfoot. Repeat the exercise 10 times on each leg.
8. Exercise with a ball for the arch of the foot
Rolling the ball with your feet can help relieve midfoot discomfort and pain associated with plantar fasciitis.
Sit on a chair with your back straight and your feet on the floor. Place a small hardball on the floor in front of you. Place one foot on the ball and move it around, pushing hard without feeling uncomfortable. The ball should massage the bottom of the foot. Take this massage for 2 minutes on each leg. If there are no matching balls at home, you can use a frozen bottle of water.
9. Stretching Achilles
The Achilles tendon is the ligament that connects the heel to the calf muscles. Unfortunately, it’s not that hard to overextend this important muscle knot. That is why it is especially important to maintain its strength and develop elasticity. It can help prevent injuries such as pain in the legs and ankles.
Stand facing the wall and raise your arms so that your palms rest against the wall. Place one leg back, keeping your knee straight. Then bend the knee of the opposite leg. Both heels are flat on the floor. Move your hips forward until you feel a stretch in your Achilles tendon and calf muscles. Hold the position for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Repeat three times on each side. You can also try another stretch by bending your back knee and pushing your hips forward.
7 general tips for strengthening feet and healthy legs
To keep your legs strong and healthy, you need to follow a few simple recommendations:
- Remember to warm up thoroughly before each workout.
- If necessary, use supportive shoes for everyday wear and be sure to train with special and high-quality athletic shoes.
- Take timely care of replacing worn-out shoes with new ones.
- Build strength and flexibility gradually to avoid overwhelming your legs and ankle.
- Avoid uneven surfaces, especially when running. Try not to overuse uphill running.
- Listen to your body and don’t overload it.
- Your prevention of new injuries is a good rest and high-quality, fully performed treatment.
Taking care of your feet and ankle, muscles, and tendons is a necessary part of both the training process and the daily care of your body. The exercises presented in this article can help relieve existing pain, prevent discomfort, and reduce the likelihood of injury.