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Dreaming of a beach for a leisurely stroll?  Me too!  As you might know, walking in the sand is actually great exercise for the muscles of the feet and lower legs.  In the previous blog I mentioned the dynamic nature of our feet and the benefits of Reflexology.  In a Pilates Reformer class, we typically begin with a series of exercises called “footwork.”  The series replicates the functional act of coming to standing – with a laser-like focus on pressure, placement and weight distribution through the foot and ankle.

The reason we pay such attention to the foot is because we rely on the strength and dynamic capability of our arches.  Wikipedia describes an arch as “a structure that spans a space and supports structure and weight above it.”  The arch is so reliable that it has been used since ancient times to support huge structures.  The Romans fortified their arches from concrete – making them highly stable.

Back to our own arches:  The 26 bones and 33 joints in each of our feet are meant to create a highly stable base, yet a quick-reaction lever.  Keeping the foot in healthy condition is no small, well, feat 

Bunions, heel pain, and poor balance can result from weak arches.  But, for the most part, you can train your foot to prevent damage, or recover from an injury or condition.  And, no matter your age, I really do feel, it’s never too late to start working on this!

Since we don’t always have a sandy beach handy to exercise our bare feet, I’ve created a short routine of exercises to help you strengthen your feet and keep your joints mobile.  Insert a one or two of these exercises every day, to create a good habit of paying attention to your feet.

Here’s a detailed video on YouTube if you’d like to learn more about Foot Anatomy

Foot Routine

Please note that in order to create change and maintain good foot health, it is ideal to do foot exercises EVERY DAY, and in some cases, when trying to make significant changes to your feet, more than once a day.

Start with  –  Ankle Circles – 30 seconds

  • Clockwise

  • Counter Clockwise

Repeat on the other foot

Hold the leg in the air so that the heel is not resting on anything.  Avoid hurrying through the movement.  Make the circles precise and deliberate – like you are stirring a bowl of oatmeal in an even, steady rhythm.  Make sure the movement occurs in the ankle, and that you are not moving your knee or your entire leg.

Arch raises

Rest your foot down on the floor, planting the ball of your foot, pinky toe ball and heel are on the ground.   Without overly curling your toes, try to draw the ball of your foot and your heel closer together.

This should activate the muscles of the foot that help lift the arch.  I personally have very little arch, but believe it or not, in these pictures, I am really working as much as possible!

Just remember everyone’s feet are different.  Activating the arch takes concentration as it’s not a part of the body we tend to think about working.

Start with 5-10 repetitions holding for 10-20 seconds each.

Repeat on the other foot

Repeat throughout the day.


Toe extensions with or without a toe separator (you can use one from a pedicure kit, for example).  Try separating the toes so much that you could interlace your fingers in the space between them.

Full extension and hold for 10 seconds

5-10 times

Repeat on the other foot


Toe curls – grab towel with toes

Rest a hand towel on a hard surfaced floor.  Sit with the working foot resting on the towel.   “Scrunch” your foot, by lifting your arch and drawing the toes in, pulling the towel a bit toward you.   Think about using your foot like a hand, as in the action of beginning to make a fist.

15-20 repetitions

1-2 sets

Repeat on the other foot

The image here is not shown with the foot on the floor, but just to point out to focus on the drawing up of the arch as you do the toe-curl exercise.

Kneeling toe stretch

“Toe Dig”

Sit on your heel – as long as this is not a problem for your knees – this deepens the stretch.  If too much a stretch for you at this time, adjust as needed until you are able to go deeper into the stretch.

Hold for 10 seconds at a time. Build up to 60 seconds as you are able

OR you may do it manually while seated – pull with hand on forefoot – pull on the big toe directly back toward your knee

Big toe stretch

Pull on your big toe while you push the ball mound of your foot forward and feel the arch activate.

Repeat on the other foot

I hope this makes for happy feet, better balance and ultimately putting your best foot forward!

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