If you’re an avid runner you know that foot ailments sometimes creep up. No matter how badly we want to deny it, it stands to reason that the feet are prone to problems. It makes sense. Every footfall results in impact of roughly three times your body weight on your feet. Even if you are a tiny runner, that is a lot of impact on a small area. There are foot strengthening exercises to keep your feet healthy, however. Keeping your feet happy is one of the smartest things you can do as a runner!
One of the first steps in keeping your feet healthy is proper footwear. Of course, that differs for each person. If you pronate or supinate, whether you have flat feet or high arches, there is a shoe made for you. One of the smartest things you can do as someone who relies on your feet for exercise is to get yourself some proper shoes.
This is not the time to look for a great deal and make your shoe decision from there. Heading to a local running store where a running shoe specialist can analyze your gait should lead to you making a good shoe choice. Your feet should feel comfortable right there in the store.
If the shoe rubs just a bit funny, or feels a little too snug in some spots, try another pair. Running shoes are not something you can hope to improve over time running. They should feel good from the very beginning.
Having good fitting shoes and quality socks go a long way toward preventing black toenails, blisters and other small runner issues of the feet.
What if your problem extends beyond footwear? There are foot exercises you can do to strengthen your feet.
How Can I Strengthen My Feet?
You can strengthen your feet in a few different ways. Some involve stretching, others add weights or resistance bands. All of them should help keep you healthy.
First, let’s start with foot stretches.
Foot Stretches for Runners
✓ Towel Stretch – for this one sit with your legs straight out in front of you. Grasping a towel by both hands, loop the towel around your feet starting with the toes. Gently pull to stretch the toes, hold for 15-30 seconds, then release. You can move the towel slightly down to stretch different parts of the foot.
✓ Towel Lifts – sit in a chair and put a towel on the floor in front of you. Use just your toes on one foot to lift up the towel. Once you are successful with one foot, switch to the other. Repeat five times.
✓ Foot Roll Stretch – roll your foot along a golf ball. You should roll from your toes all the way to the heel, and back the other direction. This can also be done with a bottle. If your feet are sore, try a frozen water bottle!
✓ Marble Pick Up – Once you have mastered the towel lift, try the same thing with marbles. Working this dexterity will help your feet.
✓ Rubber Band Toes – Take a rubber band and stretch it around your toes. Work to splay them apart and hold it there for 15 seconds. Rest. Repeat.
How Do You Stretch the Bottom of Your Feet?
People with plantar fasciitis often desire a stretch through the bottom of the foot. There are many ways to do this that specifically target this area.
✓ Toe Raise, Point and Curl – Sit with your feet flat on the ground. First raise the toes, lifting them as high as you can while keeping your heel down. Pause with your toes pointed up. Next, curl your toes under and pause when them in that position. Rest your feet flat for a moment. Repeat this five times.
✓ The Golf Ball Roll can also target the bottom of your foot. (described above)
✓ PF Stretch – While seated, hold the heel of your foot in one hand and your toes in the other. Pull your heel toward your body while pulling the toes away. Hold for 20 seconds then release.
✓ Bottom of Foot Stretch – Start by standing with your feet together. Next, step back with one foot. The fore foot should be firmly planted with your knee slightly bent. The foot you step back with, toes should be in contact and heel should not. You should feel a gentle flex through your calf and foot. Hold for 20 seconds, repeat 5 times. Switch to the other foot.
What Is The Best Exercise For Feet?
The best thing you can do for your feet is focus on prevention. Next time you are in the weight room or at your favorite gym, add these few movements:
Calf raisers will work your feet. Stand with your feet shoulder wide apart and just flex the foot up so you are standing on your forefoot. Pause for a second at the top and drop back down. Work your way up to 20 on each foot.
Limber up the foot while seated. While sitting, you can make clockwise then counterclockwise motions with one foot then repeat with the next.
An Ounce of Prevention, A Pound of Cure
As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Sure, if you have a foot injury there are things you can do to fix it. However, it is far more worth your time and energy to prevent injury if and when you can.
The sad truth of it is, many runners focus just on one thing: running. It is in your best interest to treat your whole body to strength, stability and flexibility exercises regularly. These foot strengthening exercises will help you to become more flexible, increase your strength and improve your stability.
All of these are things that should keep you running pain-free. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? The problem is we are all short on time so it seems easy to cut corners. This isn’t a thing you want to cut corners on. Remember, your feet take the brunt of the weight when you pound the pavement. Treat them like the essential tool that they are!