It’s chilly & April so now is the time to start getting your feet into shape for your warm weather adventures.
PODIATRIST GOAL: Feet must be both stable & mobile to be pain free.
PODIATRIST TIP: Think about walking in sand. Ankles, midfeet & each individual metatarsal & toe need stability so joints don’t collapse or work past their safe anatomical end point. On the other hand, if there is limited motion and lack of flexibility, joints get jammed up and our feet can’t propel forward or connect properly with the earth.
It’s all about balancing strength & flexibility everyday.
Intrinsic muscle exercises (for toes)
1. Towel curls: Sit on a chair with a towel under your feet. Your legs should be parallel and hip-width apart, and your abdominals should be engaged. Distribute your weight evenly between the heels and the balls of the feet and between the big toe and pinkie toe. Lift up your toes and spread them wide. Slowly lower them to the floor. Curl your toes under to grasp the towel and release. Repeat eight times. Advanced: Lift all 10 toes and slowly lower them to the floor, one at a time, starting with your pinkie toes. Curl your toes under to grasp the towel and release. Repeat eight times. Then do the same exercise, starting with your big toes.
2. Pencil pull ups: Stand with your spine lifted and abdominals engaged. Place a pencil on the floor in front of your right foot. Spread your toes and try to pick it up, grasping it with all of your toes at once. If picking up a pencil proves too difficult, try a marble instead. Advanced: Clutch the pencil with the pinkie-toe side, slowly moving it to the big-toe side; and reverse direction. Release and repeat three times with each foot.
3. Toe control: Place soft foam spacers (try Yoga Toes; www.yogatoes. com) between your toes. Squeeze your toes together, taking care to lengthen the toes and avoid curling. Release, and repeat five times.
Plantar fascia exercises
4. Ball massage: Standing or sitting, slowly roll a golf or tennis ball or a frozen 8-ounce water bottle back and forth from the heel to the ball of your stocking foot. Alternate the pressure, hard then soft, and roll three to five minutes on each foot.
5. Pedal presses: Standing or sitting, place your heel on the ground with a ball or bottle in front of it. Keep your leg straight as you gently press your foot over the ball to stretch the calf and plantar fascia. Slowly move the prop toward the ball of your foot, and repeat the stretch. Repeat five times on each foot. Advanced: Once you feel stable, do the same routine while standing.
6. Toe spread: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and ball or bottle nearby. Lift your hips and buttocks off the floor and clasp your hands underneath (or place them palms down by your sides). Place the prop under the toes of your right foot. Lift your toes up, spread them wide, and place them down on the prop one at a time, beginning with the pinkie toe. The position of the hips, knees, and feet should not move. Repeat five times on each foot.
Exercises for Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and bunions
7. Leg lassos: Sit tall on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Loop a towel or Thera-Band around one foot and gently flex your foot toward you to stretch the back of your calf. To make the stretch more intense, lift your leg straight up while keeping your foot lassoed. Keep the other leg elongated, and align the second toe with the knee to assure good alignment in the knee and ankle. Hold for three breaths. Release and repeat five to eight times on each leg.
8. Down Dog tread: Kneel on all fours with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Slowly lift your buttocks up and back to straighten your legs, keeping your heels off the ground. Hold your pelvis stationary and engage your abdominals as you bend the right knee slightly and lower the heel of your left leg to the ground for three breaths. Release, and repeat on both feet five to eight times.