There are 26 rather tiny bones in the foot that support the entire weight of your body. The. Entire. Weight.
Keep reading for more info!
Why should you care about your feet?
Correct biomechanics begins at the foot and our posture stems from the ground up. If you know this, you should quickly understand that optimal foot health directly relates to your training gains – you can’t perform without a solid foundation!
When misalignment exists in the feet, you can just about guarantee pain further up the lower limb and beyond. Whether you’re walking or training for a 10k, hitting the squat rack or burning the quads on jump lunges, if the action is performed repetitively with incorrect foot placement, the outcome almost always results in injury. Such as a strain, or compromised mobility and could lead to more serious joint problems or back pain.
But don’t you worry! We’ve got you covered with the top tips for foot health.
Step One: Mobilise
To train the range of motion and flexibility needed for ideal foot health, you need to consistently incorporate mobility drills to loosen up the infrastructure. It is possible to make the feet as ambidextrous as the hands, but it takes some work!
Now it’s time to get stretching some of the 100 odd muscles residing in the foot.
- Limber up at your desk, just extend one leg and begin to circle the ankle from the big toe, for 15-20 rotations, before reversing.
- Place both feet flat on the floor, then try to lift all ten toes away and see if like hitting piano keys, you can lower the toes down individually one at a time.
- To stretch the bottom of the foot, stand with the feet together, then step one leg back so the heel is raised and the ball of the foot is on the ground. You should feel the muscles along the sole stretch gently.
Roll the arches
If we’ve learned anything from reflexology, it’s that healthy feet do wonders for the whole body. Give your feet some TLC by rolling out the three arches of the feet, which act like a loaded spring to give you speed and strength. Taking a spiky ball, tennis ball or foot roller, sit down and place your arches atop. Then move back and forth, side to side, giving your feet a gentle roll in all directions. Be careful not to apply too much pressure as it could lead to bruising!
Activate the muscles
Just like you do banded walks to activate your glutes, there are certain exercises you can do to activate the musculature of the foot. The simplest involves the common gym towel. Once you’ve kicked off your shoes, simply lay a towel out on the floor and place the ball of one foot atop the end. Using a grip and release action of the toes, scrunch the towel towards you, by curling from toe to heel. Once you’ve curled it all the way in, release and repeat. Aim for 5 repetitions on each foot.
Step two: Strengthen
It’s time to max those strength gains for your feet and the surrounding support system – the ankle, Achilles, and calf. To get started on the reps, recruit a resistance band and find your closest staircase.
Tie a long resistance band around a stable object, i.e. a pole, then wrap the loop across the top bridge of your foot, below your toes. Finding tension on the band, pull the toes towards the shin, flexing the ankle. Also, try moving the foot laterally in a windscreen wiper action.
Alternatively, you can try holding the ends of the band in each hand, placing the ball of the foot in the center loop. Creating tension on the band, point your toes away from your body to extend the top of the ankle, then flex the toes back towards the face.
The humble staircase amplifies your classic heel raise. Stand on the edge of one step with the balls of your feet, then slowly lower the heels down to drop below the level edge. Keeping the legs straight, raise the heels up until you are high onto the bridge of the foot and repeat. Look for a controlled action through the entire range of motion.
If you’re lucky enough to be near a beach, jump onto the sandy shore for a foot strengthening (and cardio-boosting) bout of sprints. The uneven surface demands the recruitment of muscle fibers that stabilize the foot and ankle, yet it’s also yielding enough to soften any extra shock. The best spot for strength is in the soft sand, but if you’re just starting out, it’s a little easier on denser, wet sand!
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