Change in season calls for a change in wardrobe, and our bodies make the adjustments not just in layers, but there’s also an impact – to our feet. The transition from the colder to the warmer weather might have you more often in your tennis shoes, your minimalist shoes, or simply fashionable sandals. You’re also outdoors more, hitting different terrain.
The salesperson at the running store will analyze your foot to help you select a proper shoe. But regardless of how you’re shod, do yourself a huge favor by both strengthening and stretching the muscles of your feet and ankles. (Additionally, if you or someone you know suffers from diabetes, doing ankle, foot and lower extremity exercises is highly recommended to maintain circulation and nerve health.)
In a previous blog we’ve given you some tips on how to put your best foot forward. Today we’re following up on those with even more fun and effective exercises to increase arch and ankle stability, so that you can keep your feet limber, and yourself injury free. Especially to prepare you for the transition into summer – so it’s an excellent time to get started!
1. Alphabet Warm Up: either seated or standing barefoot, lift up one foot into the air, and draw the letters of the alphabet. This will increase blood flow to your ankle and foot, while you work on joint articulation, foot dexterity, and eye-foot coordination. It’s up to you if you pick allcaps, or lowercase – then draw each letter as precisely as you can. (Precision is a Pilates Principle, remember…)
2. Short Foot Exercise. In the previous blog, this may have been referred to as an ‘arch raise’ – its other more official name in the barefoot training world, is the “short foot.” Podiatrist, Dr. Emily Splichal goes through the Short Foot Activation below. All you need is about 60 seconds to stimulate the arch before you slip socks and shoes on for your run! This exercise helps target the abductor hallucis longus – a vitally important intrinsic muscle that stabilizes the big toe.
And whenever you see the word ‘intrinsic’ – just think “core” for the foot.
3. Optional Arch Strengthener Game: Marble Grab. Set 2 bowls side by side, about 4-6 inches apart. Fill one with as many marbles or small rubber balls you want to work with, and leave the other bowl empty. Grab your timer to start. Then using your strong arches and toes to grab however many marbles you can, and place them in the empty bowl. Keep moving the marbles from one bowl to the other until the starting bowl is now empty. Stop the timer and see how you did! Now, you’re all set up to repeat the process with the other foot!
This exercise fires your foot similarly to the “towel grab” exercise, but is WAY more fun! Consider adding it to family game night and everyone will have the benefit of getting stronger feet together in the midst of friendly competition!
(pssst, this is one of my favorites)
4. Posterior Tibialis Killer. Okay, that’s not really the name of the exercise. So, we can refer to it as Heel Raises with a ball. Your Posterior Tibialis is another vitally important intrinsic muscle that helps support the arch, and invert the foot. The ability of your foot to effectively invert is directly related to your body’s efficiency to absorb and then re-use the ground reaction forces. When that doesn’t happen, injury could be right around the corner.
In the video linked above, the instructor does an excellent job of describing the Heel Raise with the Ball exercise (also referred to as relevè). Plus she adds some variations that add a nice stretch for the Plantar Fascia as well as challenge you in balance.
Be aware also, that when you roll onto the ball foot, that you are targeting a spot that is considered the front center of your foot. If you target the X in the picture, you should be able to keep your ankles squared up and squeeze the ball.
5. Calf Stretch. The classic stretch for the ankle and Achilles. You can do this bilaterally by keeping your heels down and doing a squat in parallel. Or one leg at a time, as you ‘lunge’ toward a wall, supporting yourself with your hands. Just make sure that the foot you’re stretching has the toes pointed straight ahead rather than turned out.
One last thing on Taping….if you have medial ankle pain, or suffer from posterior tibial tendonitis, definitely check with your doc and/or your physical therapist for guidance before returning to exercise. When you’re cleared, they may tape you for support so you can go about your workout – whether or not it’s specifically targeted toward your foot/ankle. Here’s a quick tutorial by KT Tape:
There are actually several different ways to tape for the same condition, but this one was rather straightforward, not requiring too much looping around the foot or figuring percentage of stretch on the tape.
Care for your feet, and they’ll keep taking you where you want to go!
Interested in a foot/ankle assessment? We have a Barefoot Training Specialist who can help! Call for more information or to set up an appointment!
See you in the studio!
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