Exercises for Healthy Feet
Improve Strength and Balance, Relieve Pain and Prevent Future Injury
We believe the best thing you can do for your feet is to go barefoot or wear shoes that let your feet move as if they were bare. The following stretches, presented by physical therapist Dr. Sanatan Golden, are intended to help prevent injuries such as plantar fasciitis, neuromas, top of the foot pain, stress fractures, and calf strain—especially when transitioning to minimalist or barefoot shoes. These exercises are very simple and can be done in a few minutes, and the only special equipment you need is a baseball or lacrosse ball (Dr. Golden found his at a dollar store):
The ballet stretch: 5+ minutes per day on each foot. Since most of us can kick off our shoes while sitting at our desks to increase time spent in natural foot position, it is very simple to then bring your foot under your chair, curl the toes under and try to flex the big knuckle on the toes as much as you can. You can do this while you are working or sitting, so it should take no extra time. There are two parts to this stretch: 1: pushing your ankle forward and getting a big stretch across the front of the foot and 2: dropping your heel back and stretching the toes more. It can be a bit uncomfortable at first and there may be some cramping in the arch early on, but fear not, you are undoing a lot of shoe damage and doing your body a great service.
The Big Spread: 5 minutes a day while sitting at work or home: Place your baseball just behind the balls of the feet, relax, and press down allowing the ball to arch up under the metatarsals, the long bones of the forefoot. This will stretch out the often-tight, top of the forefoot and allow a more supple foot to spread out and distribute weight.
Calf Ball Release: Sitting on the ground with legs outstretched, place the ball under the calf on one leg. Work your way up the calf playing ‘seek and destroy’ with the sore and tight spots you may have developed. You can place one leg on top of the other for more pressure. Once you find a trigger point, really try to relax into it until the discomfort decreases by more than 50% (15-90 seconds usually). Try to clear 2 or 3 on each leg in a sitting. Great to do before or after runs or just while listening to the radio or watching TV.
Thanks to Dr. Golden for providing us with these great videos! Please note that if you do experience foot pain in your daily life, it is always recommended to seek advice from a medical professional.
Dr. Sanatan Golden practices physical therapy with Therapeutic Associates and is currently pursuing advanced manual therapy training through the North American Institute of Orthopedic Manual Therapy. Dr. Golden has teamed up with Dr. Ray McClanahan to host Minimalist Mondays, free weekly clinics offering information behind the philosophy of barefoot/minimalist shoe running, as well as strategies and exercises for a safe, effective transition for individuals of all fitness levels. They meet every Monday in Portland, OR.