Your feet are the foundation of your body. This owes to the fact that they serve numerous crucial purposes for your general wellbeing, primarily offering general body support and balance by evenly distributing your weight. But despite their importance, they are among the most overused and often neglected body parts. Such neglect may result in poor sports and activity performance. It could also lead to knee, lower back, or hip pain.
Whether you are training for fitness or endurance, having strong feet will help you last longer and perform better during your routine physical exercises. But how does one strengthen them? Here are seven tips you can practice:
1. Walk Barefoot On The Sand
If you live by the beach, this insightful tip can be easier for you to practice, especially if you need help with heel pain. This is a good form of feet exercise as it helps to improve both physical and mental wellbeing.
Walking, in general, stretches your feet and calves, strengthening them over time. Now, walking barefoot on sand – especially dry, loose sand – takes this to another level altogether. If you have ever taken a stroll on dry sands, you know that it is not the easiest of walks you have had. Usually, your feet will sink, and you will struggle a little every time you take the next step.
This struggle is not all for nothing. Research points out that walking or running on sand takes 2.1-2.7 times more energy than when you walk on hard surfaces. This amount of energy spend contributes to strengthening the foot muscles, especially the calves (lower legs), and can even extend to the quads (upper legs) and gluteals (i.e. your bum).
It is recommended to walk on drier sand to reap maximum benefits. So, even if you can only visit the beach once per month, make sure to include this exercise in your beach to-do list. Ensure you are barefoot (where possible), then try walking for as long as your time and energy permit. You can start at a slower pace and increase it over time, and in the process, allow your feet and calves to adjust gradually. Once you feel like you have had enough foot workout for a day, pause to relax and rejuvenate your muscles (and do not forget to take in the beautiful beach views!).
2. Massage Your Feet
A regular foot massage comes with several benefits. Here are some of the top ones:
- Keeps your feet and ankles more robust and flexible.
- Improves blood circulation.
- Helps in general body relaxation.
- Provides relief to body pains.
- Promotes better sleep.
- Reduces the effects of anxiety and depression.
- Makes your feet healthier.
Therefore, if you have not been massaging your feet, you can start today. You can hold a self-care session at home: prepare a tub of warm water to soak your feet in and have a DIY foot spa. If you wish, you can add foot lotions, scrubs, and other foot spa products to elevate the relaxation effect.
If, however, you prefer professional care, you can always schedule an appointment at your favourite spa or with a physical therapist for a professional foot massage experience. One excellent approach is to go there after a long day at work, as you will get to appreciate the role of massaging even more.
3. Perform Foot Stretches
Stretching, in general, is necessary to help your body after training hard. Whether you have spent a long time in the gym or stood up for a long time at work, doing foot stretches helps improve your overall foot strength. So, make a habit out of it.
To stretch your feet, stand in an upright position with the balls of your feet on a step and the heels hanging over the edge. Then, slowly lower your heels towards the ground, then bring it back up until you are on your tiptoes. Repeat the motion for a few minutes. It is essential to allow the big toe to have a wide range of motion. In addition to strengthening the feet, the calf muscles will also benefit as they’re involved in this stretch too. This is an easy exercise that only takes a few minutes.
4. Pick Up Marbles With Your Toes
You can randomly pick up marbles with your toes to strengthen your foot muscles. This helps impart strength to the toes and the underfoot muscles. While this might seem easy to do, it is actually tricky and often requires painstaking efforts.
To perform this exercise, sit on a chair and place two bowls in front of you, one full of marbles and one empty. Use your toes to pick marbles from the filled-up bowl and drop them into the empty bowl one by one. With regular practice, your toes and feet will develop better strength.
Alternatively, if you can access a park or beach with marbles, walk around barefoot while randomly picking marbles with your toes and hurling them as far as you possibly can.
5. Roll Different Objects Under Your Foot Soles
Rolling a hardball under your feet may help relieve arch pain and alleviate symptoms of foot ailments like plantar fasciitis. Aside from a ball, you can also roll cylindrical objects like frozen water bottles and small logs.
To perform this simple exercise, keep one of your feet flat on the ground while the other one rests on the ball, bottle, or log. Then, roll the object around in different motions, increasing the pressure as much as you are comfortable with. Similar to foot massage, this exercise aids in circulating your blood better around the feet, which is critical in nourishing the muscles.
6. Perform Toe Splay
Another effective foot exercise is the toe splay. Keep your toes flat on the ground and spread them apart as wide as possible without curling or extending them. The idea is to stretch your big toe away from the others. This to and fro motion makes your feet and arch muscles contract and expand alternately, resulting in their activation and subsequent strengthening.
For best results, hold your toes in the stretched-out position for a few seconds before reverting to the normal position. Also, make a point of doing this exercise several times a day.
7. Do Leg Swings
Leg swings are one of the best exercises to strengthen your feet. First, stand with your feet close to each other. Then, lift one leg and move it forward and backwards in for about ten swings (forwards and backwards is one swing). Switch to the other leg and repeat the motion. Make sure to stick to your comfortable range of motion while swinging your legs. Otherwise, you might end up overstretching your muscles and hurting them in the process.
Strengthening your feet is possible as long as you know how to do it safely and effectively. The tips above are a great starting point. Once you do these exercises regularly, consider exploring even more foot exercises. This way, you will ensure that your feet remain healthy and strong for improved performance in sports, fitness, and movement in general.