At SoleFit, we’re huge advocates of looking at balancing out the short term tools to get people better faster with the long term goals of making sure people really fix the source of the problems.  Foot health is certainly something that is front and centre in the minds of pedorthists and at SoleFit, we feel very strongly that although orthotics and corrective shoes hold a valuable spot in the treatment plan for many injuries related to the feet, it can potentially come at the long term expense of our foot health if not used properly.  This video will attempt to give some guidance in how to ensure our feet stay strong and healthy for the long term.  When doing these exercises, picture your 80 year old self being able to walk barefoot pain free along the beach!

…picture your 80 year old self being able to walk barefoot pain free along the beach.

Although there are a multitude of exercises that are great for our feet, we’re going to simplify things down a bit to a few of our favourite that we think will give you the most bang for your buck.  We often find that if patients (and myself guilty as charged) are given too many exercises, we often default to doing none of them!

We’re going to break this into two sections.  The first will be a few mobility exercises to keep our feet moving the way they are meant to and the second being strengthening exercises to keep our feet strong and engaged. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of these exercises.  Even a couple of minutes every day can make a big difference!  

FOOT STRENGTHENING

Although they’re so far away from our head that we tend to forget about them, the muscles of our feet are super important in everything from propelling us forward to creating a splinting effect that protects our bones from vibration and even potential stress fracture.

Short foot.  One of the best exercises we’ve found to engage some of the arch stabilizing muscles of the feet (adductor hallucis, flexor hallucis brevis) is an exercise called Short Foot.    How to do it:  Stand with both feet on the ground but focus on one foot at a time.  Try to make sure your have a nice tripod between the base of your big toe, the base of your fifth toe and your heel.  If you have a hallux valgus (big toe is angled towards lesser toes), consider using things like Correct Toes, athletic tape, or other toe spacers to properly align the big toe.  Press your big toe into the floor and hold for 10-15sec (ideally 3-5 repetitions per side).   For added difficulty, try doing this exercise standing on one foot, followed by adding in a slight squatting bend at the knees.

Be barefoot!  We’re humans and as such are designed to be barefoot.  As soon as we put on shoes, orthotics, or any other covering on our feet, we block the 1000s of highly sensitive nerves on the bottom of our feet from doing their job.  Let pain ultimately be your guide, but try being barefoot around the house, on variable surfaces, standing on one foot while you’re cooking or brushing your teeth or really anywhere!  Doing varied movements in our bare feet not only works on foot strength but also goes a long way towards improving our balance.  For those that aren’t used to being barefoot, even 5min of barefoot time can be a great place to start and probably the easiest way to get our feet stronger!

FOOT FLEXIBILITY

It’s so important for our foot to be able to move in the way in which it’s designed to.  Trying to undo some of the damage from sitting all day and wearing overly constructed footwear is imperative to long term foot health.

Plantar foot release: One of the best ways to release the muscles on the bottom of your feet is to use a rolling object (Yoga tune-up balls, lacrosse ball, tennis ball) to massage the bottom of your foot.  Roll in all directions and/or press and apply weight in various spots, sitting or standing depending on tolerance.  Ideally, aim for 1-3 minutes on each side.  You can easily do this one while reading, watching television or sitting in front of the computer.

foot mobility

Lower leg release:  Many of the major muscles that control our feet are located in our lower leg.  Use a massage stick or even your hands on the back/inner/outer/front of your lower leg.  Aim for 1-3 minutes on each side.

foot health foot care

Toe lacing:  We tend to wear shoes that are too tight around the toes.  Do undo some of the damage, try interlacing your fingers in your toes and move gently back and forth.  Try 15-30 seconds on each side, especially on days when you’ve worn less than ideally fitted footwear.

foot health and foot care

Be careful with these exercises (especially the strengthening exercises) as even though they’re very good for our feet, it can be quite a new strain on muscles that aren’t used to being used.  As always, we’d love to hear back from you if you have any questions or comments!

For those looking to dive in a bit deeper to barefoot care, we highly recommend these two books!

cover of barefoot strong
barefoot strength and mobility

As always, we’d love to hear any comments that you may have and definitely let us know if you have any questions!  To keep up with blog posts, health tips, and upcoming events be sure to sign up for our monthly newsletter!

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