5 Steps to Strong Feet
Start your journey to fitter feet by practicing regular strength and mobility exercises that target your feet, ankles, hips, and core. You can prehabilitate your feet to prevent injury or offset age-related issues. “You don’t have to give up and think, I’m too old to fix it,” says Eischens Yoga teacher Lynn Shuck. “You’re not.”
There are a handful of simple strength and mobility drills you can practice to keep your feet healthy. For example, one easy way to create greater joint mobility and counteract all the time you spend in shoes is to roll the soles of your bare feet over a tennis ball periodically throughout the day, she says. If your feet are especially tight and tender, begin in a seated position. If your feet aren’t as tense, you can roll each foot while standing or even switch to a smaller ball, such as a handball.
Mindful walking helps build awareness of how you’re using your feet, while also developing foot strength and mobility, says performance physiotherapist Mike Gauvreau. Find an area where you can walk barefoot (you can also wear minimalist shoes) and spend 10 to 15 minutes walking — paying close attention to how you’re naturally placing your feet. (Learn more about your gait by reading “Relearn to Walk“.)
Finally, building full-body strength will go a long way toward prehabbing and rehabbing foot conditions. “All of the muscles and joints of the lower limb are involved in foot and arch support, and thus it’s important to make sure we’re strengthening all of them,” explains physical therapist Erika Mundinger, who designed the following routine.
1) Dead Bug
This move teaches you how to stabilize your pelvis and spine while moving your limbs, which is key for optimal posture, explains Mundinger. When your posture is stable, your feet can land in a better position.
2) Hip Thrust
This exercise strengthens your gluteus maximus and hamstrings. When these muscles are strong, they stabilize your thighbones better, keeping your knees and feet from rotating in or out as you walk or run.
3) Banded Sidestep
This works both your gluteus maximus and medius, which minimizes rotation of your thighs and ankles.
4) Seated Towel Pickup
This exercise activates all the muscles in your legs and core to limit rotation of your hips, knees, and ankles, while also strengthening your arch and all the intrinsic muscles of your feet.
5) Single-Leg Balance on Foam Pad
This originally appeared as “Strength Training for Your Feet” in “The Best Foot Forward” in the January-February 2019 print issue of Experience Life.