Rather than reinvent the wheel, below are a couple of videos from GMB Fitness (a great resource for all things strength related). Increasing the strength and mobility of the feet can have a huge knock-on effect for your knees, hips and lower back – basically everything above the feet, which are the base of support for your body. These three videos show some great foot exercises and a self-massage technique which will leave your feet stronger, more resilient, more mobile and feeling zingy – I’m not sure what zingy means, but that’s how many feet felt after I massaged them. Adding coconut oil to this experience helps with getting your fingers between your toes too! (check out the awesome Sponge Bob pj bottoms courtesy of BBE in the pic above).
These exercises to maintain foot flexibility feel great and are easy to do. Relaxing tension in the feet can affect the legs and hips because the muscles of the calves run all the way down into the feet and connect via fascia to the muscles of the upper leg and hip. As you incorporate these exercises into your daily life, you will be able to maintain proper foot alignment which brings marked improvement in muscle recruitment in the rotators of the hips, pelvic floor, and abdominals and improves your walking patterns.
- Wake up your foot with the spiky ball – roll your feet vigorously. The spiky ball should have some give to it.
Lacrosse Ball Exercises
Use slow, controlled movements to release tension as you roll the ball along your feet. Don’t roll the ball over any injured areas. You may feel some soreness over tight areas, but there should not be sharp pain. You can do the exercises seated in a chair or standing (hold something for balance if required). If the lacrosse ball is too firm, try sitting down or use the spiky ball instead. If you can get your hands on one get a Yoga Tune Up ball instead.
- Flex and Point – Place the ball beneath the toes with the heel on the ground. Wrap your toes around the ball and press down, pointing your foot. Depress the ball and flex the toes, while maintaining the heel on the ground. Repeat.
- Heel Press – Place your heel on the ball and the ball of your foot on the ground. Press your heel down into the ball, then lift your heel, pointing your foot and maintaining contact of the ball of the foot to the floor. Repeat.
- Side to side 1 – Because much of our activity is done in the sagittal plane, our feet lose flexibility and strength in side-to-side movement necessary for moving over uneven or unstable terrain. Stand with the ball of your foot on the ball and your heel on the ground. Move the front of your foot from side to side over the ball, trying to touch the inside of your foot to the floor, then the outside of your foot to the floor, while keeping your heel on the ground.
- Side to side 2 – Stand with your heel on the ball and the ball of your foot on the ground. Move your heel from side to side, trying to move the inside of foot to the floor, then the outside of your foot to the floor, while keeping the ball of your foot on the ground.
- 5 lines – roll the bell from the heel to little toe, heel to fourth toe… etc.
Foot and Ankle Exercises
- Foot circles with toes curled. Start seated, progress to standing.
- Point and flex foot, toes and ankle with toes extended as you flex and pointed as you point, then reverse, toes extended as you extend and flexed as you flex. Start seated, progress to standing.
- Trace an ‘X’ with the foot, with the foot moving down and in and then up and out and vice versa. Start seated, progress to standing.
- Standing ankle circles with the ball of the foot down and heel raised.
- Standing ankle circles with the heel down and the ball raised.
- Standing or seated spread your toes as wide as they will go (the end of your toes from outer big toe to outer little toe should be wider than the ball of the foot).
- Standing or seated see if you can move just your big toe out (i.e. spreading just the big toes away from the others).
- Standing or seated lift just your big toe, then try to lift each toe in turn. When you’ve mastered that try putting them down in turn as well.
- With a band around the foot, take foot through full range of movement, i.e. inversion/eversion/flexion/extension/add/abd. Use band to add resistance.
- Place band around individual toes and flex/extend.
- Top of foot
- Calf raises – start with both and progress to single leg.
- Soleus raises – start with both and progress to single leg.
- Sit on the floor and using oil (optional) massage the whole foot.
- Hold hands with your foot, putting the fingers of your opposite hand through the
- Squeeze your fingers with your toes and then pull your fingers out which helps to build the transverse arch.
- With your fingers between your toes hold the heel with the opposite hand and rotate the forefoot, twist and almost like you’re wringing out a cloth.
- Pull the big toe out so that it lines up with the metatarsal (the big toe bone along the top of your foot). Massage between the first and second metatarsals.
- Pull the big toes out and then bend it down and massage in between the first and second metatarsals.
- Massage the calf.
- Massage the muscles on the front of the leg down the inside edge of the shin bone.
- Massage the muscles on the front of the leg down the outside edge from below the knee to the ankle.