Putting your best foot forward.
Too often we forget that our feet are an important part of our fitness, health and well-being. At least, we forget until we develop foot pain and deformities. Foot pain can lead to serious health problems, including abnormal gait, decreased balance, and pain in our knees, hips, and back.
However, with the proper attention including exercises and stretches, you can keep your feet strong, healthy, flexible and pain free. Good health starts from the bottom up, so remember to make foot care a vital part of your daily routine. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Treat your feet.
1). Stimulate the bottom of your feet. Sit on the edge of a chair with your bare feet against the carpet, lightly and briskly rub them back and forth against the carpet for 10-15 seconds. Stop, and notice the sensations coming from the bottom of your feet. This “wakes up” the nerve endings and improves circulation.
2). Massage your feet. Don’t wait for your feet to hurt to give them a good rub down. Instead, massage them on a regular basis using a good moisturizer or foot cream. Use a firm but gentle pressure and give a little extra attention to the areas that are tender or sore.
You can also use a tennis ball. Stand, place your foot on the ball and firmly and gently press into it, concentrating on the areas of your foot that is tender or feels tight.
3). Get a pedicure. Even if you’re a guy, because real men do get pedicures. It’s a rare treat for your feet and no, it does not include nail polish. At least, not unless you want it to.
Stretch your legs.
1). Stretch your calves. Stand with both hands against a wall for support. Place one foot forward and the other one back. Bend the front knee, straighten the back knee and press the heel into the floor. Breathe and relax into the stretch. Hold for 10-15 seconds, then switch legs.
2). Mobilize your ankles. Repeat the above stretch starting with the first side again. This time, slightly bend the back knee as you stretch. This will get deeper into the calf muscles, the Achilles tendon, and will gently mobilize the ankle joint. Tight calf muscles contribute to decrease mobility of your feet and is related to foot problems such as plantar fasciitis.
Strengthen the muscles in your feet.
1). “Walk” your feet. Sit on the edge of a firm chair with your bare feet resting on a towel. Slowly extend and flex your toes down into the floor and toward your heel to “walk” the towel in toward you. Continue until the towel is completely pulled toward you, then reverse the movement of your toes to move the towel away from you.
2). “Play the piano” with your toes. Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor and work one foot at a time. Lift all off your toes off of the floor. Slowly and meticulously lower one toe to the floor at a time, starting with your pinkie toe and working your way to your big toe. This takes some practice, but you will feel the muscles in your feet getting stronger and more flexible.
3). Standing toe lifts. Stand with your knees soft (slightly bent rather than locked). Lift all ten toes off of the floor and try to splay them apart. Hold for a few seconds and release. Repeat ten times.
4). Standing toe press. Stand with your knees soft. Press all ten toes into the floor as you lift your arches off of the floor. Hold for a few seconds and release. Repeat ten times. These exercises will strengthen the muscles that support proper foot mechanics and improve flexibility.
These simple tips will keep you on your toes, help you step out into the world and put your best foot forward. Make sure you give them the love and attention they deserve!