Ultimate foot guide and how to relieve foot pain. I’m travelling at the moment and I’ve spent the past few days walking and walking and then doing some more walking and then throwing in a little sightseeing, which of course involves more walking and you get my drift. I’m very proud to say that although I’m sore all over, my feet don’t hurt at all. I’ve been on a major kick lately to really focus on strengthening them and I’m happy to say that it’s working.
Now you might be thinking, what’s the big deal with feet? I think they are an often overlooked and very misunderstood part of our bodies, but an oh so necessary component of being healthy and fit.
ULTIMATE FOOT GUIDE AND HOW TO RELIEVE FOOT PAIN
Why workout your feet? Take a look at your poor feet. There are 26 bones in your foot (and ankle) that are being held together by a complicated network of muscles, ligaments and tendons. In fact, your feet contain 33 joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. Yet how often do you truly focus on specifically working out your feet? As a Pilates instructor, I was always taught to look at my client’s feet and their gait. Your feet are the foundation of proper alignment and without that, you will develop (if you haven’t already) ankle problems, knee problems, hip problems and possibly even back problems. Don’t believe me? Stand up for a second and stand up barefoot with your feet hip distance apart, toes pointing forward. Now look down and ensure that your pinkie toe is in line with your heel (some of you may feel that you are turned inward). Stand like this for 30 seconds and see what starts to happen, which muscles start engaging and how hard it is to maintain this position. See, what happens is that most of us naturally stand with our feet slightly turned out and this causes fallen arches and collapsing ankles. I always told my clients to practice standing with their toes pointing forward and equal weight on both feet. You can do it while brushing your teeth, doing the dishes, waiting in the checkout line. Keep in mind that it will feel weird and awkward at first, but it gets better, I promise. With strong feet, you’ll find that you are going to be able to run faster, walk further and just generally have less injuries.
Why do feet get weak? The truth is that most people actually have weak feet. Sure, you might be on them all day, but shoe companies have gotten smarter over time and shoes are developed with built in stabilizers and lots of cushioning (this is especially true for running/workout sneakers). While the shoe may be comfortable, your feet aren’t getting the exercise they need to give you proper balance and stability.
Grip. This is a pretty easy and common exercise, but a really effective one. Standing up, place one foot on your towel start slowly picking it up with your foot and then pushing it away. Do this 10x on each foot.
Extensions. Start by standing up (hold on to a chair if you need to) and focus on keeping your feet flat on the floor as you raise your toes into the air. Hold for 5 seconds and release. Repeat 10x
Big toe isolation. This exercise is part 2 of the previous one and helps to increase the mobility in your big toe joint (which is especially important for people who have bunions) as well as strengthening your foot. Start by standing up and lifting your toes off the floor. Leave all your toes up but try to isolate the big toe by placing it down on the floor and then lifting it back up. Try this 10x. Now do the reverse. Leaving all your toes on the ground lift just your big toes. Don’t be surprised if this is hard to do. Try it 10x.
Heel raises. Standing up, both feet flat on the floor hip distance apart, engage your quadriceps so that your knees are straight and protected and rise slowly (2 breaths) up onto the balls of your feet and then slowly lower your heels to the floor. There are a few things you should be thinking about while you do this exercise. First, move in a controlled manner and don’t let your heels drop back down to the floor. Also, when you are rising up onto the balls of your feet, watch that you aren’t rolling to the outside of your feet so that your bones are in alignment. What this probably means for most of us is that your weight will be more on your big toe.
Calf stretch. You’ll find a lot of relief with this stretch. Sitting on the floor, place a towel or resistance band around your foot and gently pull it toward you while keeping our leg straight. You should feel a nice stretch in the back of your leg. Hold for 20 seconds. You can also include a hamstring stretch here by leaning your body forward and holding for 20 seconds.
Toe stretch. Sometimes it’s nice to just stretch out the tops of your feet. You’ll want to be careful with this one and not put too much pressure on your toes. Standing up, tuck your foot (so that the top is touching the floor) and apply gentle, even pressure. Hold for 15-20 seconds on each foot.
Upside down V. This is a very relaxing stretch and while it doesn’t directly affect your feet, it stretches your inner thighs. All your muscles are connected and this will feel great for everyone and especially those with tight arches. Lying on your back, place your legs up a bare wall and wiggle yourself so that your glutes are up against the wall. Let your legs fall out to the sides and hold for 30 seconds.
Cool down. Place a golf ball in the freezer for a couple of hours and roll your foot over it when it’s feeling especially tired and sore. You’re welcome!