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Unbeatable Feet

Foot strengthening exercises


Unbeatable Feet

We take our feet for granted even though they support us all day long. Foot exercises, also known as foot strengthening, can keep your feet healthy and strong.

Take a good look at your feet. Hidden underneath cloth and leather casings lie two remarkable biological machines. Each human foot has over 100 moving parts—including 26 bones, 33 joints, and countless muscles, tendons, and ligaments—all working simultaneously to take us where we need to go.

The importance of feet cannot be underestimated. Our feet form the basis of our gait and posture. Every kinetic chain of events which gets us from point A to B starts, and ends, with our feet. With each step, our feet take a pounding, absorbing up to three times our body weight, cushioning the blow for our shins, knees, hips, and spines.

Watch your step

Despite their robust engineering, our feet are put in a precarious position every day. All it takes is one misstep to cause damage that will disrupt the foot’s complicated biomechanics. As our heels and ankles bear the brunt of each foot strike, it’s no wonder that many people suffer an ankle injury at some point in their lives.

Unfortunately, the tendons in the ankle are difficult to heal and become more prone to future injuries after a sprain. This is why 40 percent of people who’ve sprained their ankles continue to suffer pain even after getting the injury properly treated.

When feet fall flat

Preventing sprains and other long-lasting injuries can be as simple as strengthening our ankles, toes, and plantar fascia muscles along the base of our feet. However, while other parts of the body get ample training, most people don’t devote much time to strengthening their feet. This neglect can lead to chronic muscle fatigue, which is often compounded by improper shoes. The result: overworked, undertrained feet develop flattened arches.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, flattened arches increase the incidence of knee pain and shin splints, because the knees and shins compensate and absorb the impact that would have been dispersed by a high arch.

People with flat feet are also prone to inflammation of the Achilles tendon and plantar fasciitis, a common cause of heel pain. Besides pain, other telltale signs that trouble is afoot include the formation of bunions, corns, and calluses as well as popping and cracking sounds when rotating or flexing the ankle.

Foot strengthening exercises

Don’t let weak feet be your defeat! Practise the following daily exercises to strengthen flattened arches, weakened Achilles tendons, or wobbly toes.

Unbeatable FeetSupported point and flex

This exercise strengthens your toes and plantar fascia muscles.

  • Sit up or lie down with your feet straight out in front of you. Place a rolled-up towel under your calf.
  • Flex the toes of one foot up toward your body, keeping your knee straight. Hold for five seconds, and then point the toes toward the ground.
  • Hold again, and then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat five times before doing the other foot.

Unbeatable FeetDrawing circles

The fun activity improves toe strength and ankle coordination.

  • Sit with a pencil firmly grasped between your big toe and second toe.
  • On a sheet of paper in front of you, draw circles in both directions. Make larger or smaller circles, or challenge your foot’s precision by tracing an existing circle.
  • Be sure to do both feet.

Unbeatable FeetThrow in the towel

This game challenges your balance and strengthens your ankles, toes, and plantar muscles.

  • Stand and place a small towel under your foot and curl your toes to firmly grasp the towel.
  • Pick up the towel with your foot and try to throw it into a nearby basket.
  • After a few tosses, try the other foot.

Unbeatable FeetResistance band

Both of these exercises are great for people who suffer bunions from improper footwear.

  • Loop a thick rubber band around all five toes of one foot.
  • Then try to spread your toes apart, working against the band’s tension.
  • For a variation, slip the band over both big toes, and then pull your feet apart.

Top tips for healthy feet

  • Walk or run barefoot whenever possible. This gives your feet a chance to be fully responsive to changes in terrain, posture, and gait.
  • Balance on one leg for a few minutes each day. This challenges the proprioceptive nerves in your ankles while strengthening your calf muscles. Studies have linked the ability to stand on one leg to decreased risk of ankle sprains in athletes.
  • Consult a podiatrist and get fitted for proper shoes, especially if you are prone to injuries.


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Brendan Rolfe, CPHR, BA, DipABrendan Rolfe, CPHR, BA, DipA