Be honest, unless you have foot pain, have you ever thought about how they affect the health of the rest of your body? Until I started my Pilates training, I never gave my feet a second thought. They just did what they did-got me from point A to B to Z and back again. Pounding the pavement of New York City as an assistant…sometimes in flip-flops (oops!), I often had sore feet. However, I just ignored it and went on my merry if not slightly hobbled way.
The feet are complex and there’s a lot more to them than you think. They’re comprised of more than 50 bones; over 60 joints and 200 (yes 200) muscles, tendons and ligaments that combined propel you from one step to the next. If there’s an imbalance in this combination, a host of problems arise– not only in your feet but all the way up to your neck. If you perform high impact exercise, like running or wear the wrong type of footwear, you are creating a recipe for disaster. I am not saying you should stop running or give up those heels, but caring for your feet is truly important for your overall health and well-being.
Conditions such as Diabetes, Plantar Fasciitis, Bunion, Morton’s Neuroma can cause severe pain and affect the way you walk (favoring one leg over the other because of pain in the affected foot or the way your feet hit the ground) and thus create imbalances in the way the feet work. If you think you might have one of these conditions, you should consult your doctor and develop a plan to relieve symptoms and get your feet in shape ASAP.
However, if you have ‘healthy’ feet, but just ignore them, here are a few tips that might get you walking a little taller and stepping a little lighter. Make sure to take deep inhales and exhales while performing these exercises.
Stretches (Bottom of Foot)
- Stand facing a wall and place toes on the wall and heel on the floor. The arch of the foot should be about a 45 degree angle to the floor. Lean in towards the wall thereby increasing the flexion between the toes and the top of the foot. Repeat 5 times each foot holding the stretch for 10-20 seconds each rep.
- Sit on the heels with the knees bent and toes curled under. This is not recommended for anyone with knee issues as it creates extreme flexion of the knee. This is also a huge stretch for the feet, so I wouldn’t try this first. Hold for 10-20 seconds, release the stretch and repeat 5 times.
*Added bonus-Calf stretch
Stretches (Top of Foot)
- Hero Pose-Sit with knees bent, together and the tops of the feet flat on the floor. Make sure the back of the heel (where the achillies meets the heel) is facing the sky. This is a big stretch so I caution against this being your first one. Leaning your back towards the floor increases the stretch. Hold for 10-30 seconds, release the stretch and repeat 5 times.
- Sit on a chair with both feet on the floor. Curl the toes under so that the tops of the feet are facing the floor. Hold for 10-30 seconds, release the stretch and repeat 5 times. Sit up tall with abdominals pulled in.
*Added bonus-Shin stretch
Place a tennis ball in the center of the arch and roll up toward the toes then down towards the base of the heel. Then roll from the arch out toward the left and right. If there is a spot that feels extra tight, press on it for a few deep breaths. It can be painful, but worth it. The tennis ball should be fresh, not flat.
Towel Pull (to balance your foot action and strengthens the arch):
Place one foot parallel and flat on a thin towel with heel on the floor directly under your bent knee
Curl toes under towards the arch to move towel closer to your heel. Try and pull evenly with all five toes. Extend foot flat and repeat 10 times each foot.
Try these simple at home techniques. Trust me your feet and body will thank you!