Foot and Ankle Strengthening Exercises
Our feet lay the foundation for our joints, ligaments, tendons, and the weight of our body. If we don’t keep them strong, our foundation will crumble and these extremities will suffer. Keeping our feet and ankles strong and flexible help reduce pain in them as a whole, while reducing muscle soreness in the legs and hips and improving overall foot health. Weakness and imbalances in the toes, ball of the foot, and heels, can increase a person’s risk of developing plantar fasciitis, arthritis, or other long-term foot conditions like hammertoes and toe cramps. By consistently performing gentle stretching and strengthening exercises on a daily basis, you can help yourself improve your foot and ankle’s range of motion, improve balance, prevent injury, and allow your muscles to provide more solid support.
Functional Strengthening Exercises
By putting in the effort to practice functional strengthening exercises on a regular basis, you will notice the strength of your foot and ankle improving, over time. It’s important that you consult with your podiatrist if you have arthritis or diabetes before you start doing these exercises, to discuss your limitations. Before you start doing these exercises, talk a little walk, or pace back and forth for a few minutes to get the blood flowing in your tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
- Toe Lifts – Place feet flat on the floor and lift each toe up one by one while aiming to keep the foot flat on the floor. You may find that this isn’t easy, but don’t give up. Perform three sets of each toe at least once a day.
- Pencil Lifts – You may find this exercise easy if you have a hammertoe, but by picking up a pencil in the toes, you are strengthening the muscle group. Hold for a count of six, and repeat 10 times, three times a day. An alternative version of this exercise involves picking up a towel or a marble.
- Walking on the toes – For this exercise, take precaution when you walk around on your tiptoes. You should perform this exercise barefoot and aim for eight sets of 15-20 second reps and take breaks in between. Progress should increase during the duration of the walks, and this exercise should be completed twice a day.
- Walking on the heels – This exercise is similar to the one above, but instead of walking on the toes, you are walking on your heels. Aim for eight sets of 15-20 second reps with 20 seconds of rest in between. This should also be completed twice a day.
During these exercises, it’s important to be gentle and go slow. These exercises should not be painful, therefore, if they are causing you pain, stop doing them and contact your doctor immediately.