Whether you think about it or not, your feet are a part of your activities. They are involved in essentially every sport and serve crucial roles in exercising. Ignoring them and the part they play invites painful, and frequently avoidable, injuries. On the other hand, foot stretching can help you relax tightened tissues and condition your lower limbs so they are warmed up and ready to tackle your activities.
Stretching is an essential part of your exercise routine. Many otherwise avoidable injuries take place because tendons, ligaments, or muscles were too tight or not warmed up enough when they got hurt. This is as true for your feet as it is everywhere else in your body. Foot stretching should include both traditional stretches to relax the tissues and exercises to encourage the small muscles in the lower limbs to work correctly. Some of the best movements include:
Towel Stretch – Sit with your feet straight in front of you. Loop a towel around the ball of your foot. Gently pull the ends of the towel back toward yourself as you stretch your sole and calf. Hold for several seconds, then relax. Repeat several times before switching to the other foot.
Negative Calf Raises – Stand on a step with your heels hanging off the edge. Slowly lower your heels as far as you can safely. You should feel the stretch in the calf muscle. After several seconds, raise your heels back to neutral.
Regular Calf Raises – With your heels hanging off the step, raise them up so you are balancing on the balls of your feet. Then return to a neutral position and repeat.
Runner’s Stretch – Face a wall with your hands flat against it. Place one foot straight behind you and keep that knee straight. Bend the other knee and lunge forward slightly. Hold for several seconds before relaxing. Then switch feet.
Plantar Stretch – Sit with your legs crossed. One foot should be sitting on top of your other knee. Flex this foot and use your hands to gently pull your toes back toward your shin bones. Hold for a short while, then relax. Repeat several times before switching to the other foot.
Sole Massage – Use a frozen tennis ball, water bottle, or any other cold and round object. Place it on the ground and massage your sole by rolling it around with your feet.
Toe Pick-Ups – Using just your toes, try to pick up marbles, game tokens, pencils, towels, or any other small objects and place them in a bucket or cup. As this becomes easier, try to do it standing, or time yourself to improve your speed.
Stable and Unstable Balancing – Stand on one foot for a whole minute without holding onto a surface to help balance. When this becomes easy, try it with your eyes closed. Then move to an unstable surface, like a pillow or small trampoline. Again, try to balance on one foot for a whole minute.
All of these activities are simple, but can make a huge difference in the strength and endurance of your lower limbs. Feet that are stretched out and conditioned are less likely to develop problems like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and shin splints. Add these to your daily routine and include some of the stretches, especially the ones affecting your calves, in your regular warm-up and cool down before and after exercising. These movements can also help you relieve some of the symptoms of strain and overuse for certain conditions.
If you’re not sure how to effectively stretch your feet, or find that you’re struggling with foot or ankle pain after exercising, don’t ignore the issue. Contact Sierra Foot & Ankle here in Carson City, Nevada for an appointment or more information. We can help you eliminate your discomfort and stay safe and pain-free during your activities. Call us at (775) 783-8037 or use our website contact form to reach us.