A building wouldn’t be able to keep itself up without a strong foundation—similarly, your body won’t be able to achieve peak mobility and strength without strong feet to bring it around.
It may be surprising to some, but most of us actually have very weak feet due to a range of factors including the way we walk and the shoes we wear. Weak feet don’t only affect the feet themselves, but they also come with the risk of developing problems such as hip and knee pain and plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the fascia under the foot).
Remember, your feet consist of 33 joints, 26 bones, and over 100 ligaments. They also keep your whole body balanced and plays a big part in proprioception, a feedback loop between your body and brain that allows your brain to know where your body is in space. This plays a big part in enabling your body to participate in sports and exercise, and also helps to keep you upright as you go about life.
That’s why as important as it is to train your muscles, it’s just as important to train your feet to improve its strength and stability. Here are 4 ways to train your feet into tip-top condition.
Our feet are almost constantly in shoes, which can prove narrow and be suffocating for them. By ditching them as much as possible, it can re-engage muscles that spend a large part of the day in restrictive shoes. When barefoot, engage in simple exercises to become stronger. Examples include trying to walk on the balls of your feet, which challenges your balance, as well as performing repetitions of heel raises.
Walk on different surfaces
There are two different surfaces that can provide additional benefits to your feet—soft surfaces and smooth rocks. Running on soft surfaces like grass and sand helps to increase the strength and flexibility in your feet as it yields to your weight. This increases the range of motion and strength of your feet, and also helps to improve joint articulation. Smooth rocks, on the other hand, help to activate the proprioceptive nerves that exist at the sole of your feet. Decreased function of these nerves leads to posture imbalance, as they are directly connected to your lower back.
Choose good shoes
While going barefoot is ideal, it’s almost impossible to go about barefoot in everyday life. Thus, chances are your weak feet are also partially caused by wearing bad shoes. A common perpetrator? Flip-flops. These shoes prevent your feet from moving naturally, as they don’t tend to bend well to fit with the curvature of the feet. What’s worse is that due to the nature of flip-flops, many people tend to walk unnaturally with them on, unintentionally shuffling their feet or clenching their toes. In order to avoid this, choose good shoes that support your feet and provide them the means to move as naturally as possible.
Train your feet
You’re in luck—according to a study done in 2012, just a few weeks of concentrated training of the feet and ankles can help mend years of underuse and misuse. You don’t have to dedicate a long period of time to training either, as small, consistently done movements such as flexing, standing on one foot, and pointing your toes can make all the difference. Here are three other exercises you can do three times a week to make your feet as strong as they can be!