You’re probably familiar with the importance of stretching. Professional and amateur athletes do it before a run or a game in order to warm up and prevent injuries. People recovering from injuries do it to improve strength and range of motion. You might even do it once or twice a day at work in order to keep your blood flowing.
Did you know that your feet benefit greatly from stretching and exercise, too? It’s true! Don’t let the rest of your body have all the fun—foot exercise is just as important to your overall health and fitness.
Why Stretch Your Feet?
Foot stretching and exercise provide myriad benefits, including:
- Pain relief. Stretches and massage can be great for releasing tight tendons and easing inflammation and cramping.
- Prevention and management of progressive deformities such as bunions, hammertoes, and other foot problems. Many foot problems are related to muscle imbalances or tightened tissues. Stretching and working feet regularly strengthens these tissues and can prevent problems from forming or getting worse.
- Improved athletic performance. Foot exercises can give you more explosiveness for sports that require starting and stopping; better range of motion for a wide range of activities that require agility, flexibility, and balance; and more durability for endurance sports and training.
- Injury prevention and rehabilitation, not to mention reducing daily wear and tear to keep your feet healthier and free from pain longer.
- Better range of motion and balance at any age, which can significantly reduce your fall risk as you get older.
- Improved circulation, to help you with swelling, numbness, nerve problems, natural healing processes, and more.
Top Exercises for Foot and Toe Pain
If you have a specific condition or other painful problem, we always prefer you talk with one of our podiatrists before setting a specific physical therapy plan. That way, we can tailor a program that will provide the greatest amount of benefit to you.
Some common stretches we may recommend include:
- Rolling a golf ball underfoot is a great way to massage your sole and fight cramping, heel pain, and arch pain. (If you don’t have a golf ball, you can use a tennis ball or even a water bottle instead). Apply light pressure for 2-3 minutes at a time.
- Heel raises are perfect for toe cramps or tight calves. Gently raise your heels and stand on the balls of your feet for 10 seconds at a time. Do a set of 10, if you can.
- Lift one foot and point the toes downward as far as they’ll go, hold, and then flex upward. This one is good for stretching small muscles throughout the foot, as well as improving circulation.
- Using your toes to pick up marbles or grasp and curl a towel is especially good for those with toe cramping, hammertoes, or pain in the balls of their feet.
- For those who have a few more tools at their disposal, resistance band exercises are great for strengthening ankles and improving overall foot strength, coordination, and balance.
- Balance exercises, like standing on one foot (with a chair for support if you need it) or walking heel to toe, are a great way to regain and maintain sturdy footing and greatly reduce your fall risk, even as you get older.
Make Sure Your Feet Get the Right Workout
Stretching and exercise for your feet, toes, and ankles should be an important component of your regular routine. Most exercises we recommend are simple, require few (if any) tools or aids, can be performed in just a few minutes per day—and often even while you’re sitting at the dinner table or at your desk at work! Investing in your foot health today is one of the easiest and best choices you can make for a lifetime of happy, pain-free feet.
If you have a specific source of pain, foot condition, or injury, get in touch with the experts at Carolina Podiatry Group. We’ll help you develop the best physical therapy program to get you back on your feet. To schedule an appointment, give us call 888-569-9559.