Men are notorious for not taking care of their feet. That’s a shame since just a little daily maintenance in this area can pay huge dividends. The greatest percentage of sensory input receptors can be found in the foot. Of the body’s 206 bones, 25 percent are in the feet. The human foot has 28 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 tendons. Your feet are the most undertreated parts of your body and yet they’re the most abused. Reflexology researchers believe every body part can be traced to a spot on your feet or hands, so working these areas can have total-body benefits. Here are ten exercises for your feet that will improve performance, reduce stress, and decrease pain all over. All should be done barefoot for maximum impact.
1. Ankle flexion and extension
From a sitting position with your foot slightly off the ground, flex the foot from the ankle (toes pointing toward the shins). Then extend it toward the ground, pointing toes to the floor and slightly touching the floor. Do two sets of 15 with each foot. Note: Move your foot from the ankle.
2. Toe circles
From either a sitting position or lying on your back while holding your foot slightly off the ground, rotate your foot 10 times in a clockwise motion. Then rotate 10 times in a counterclockwise motion. Do two sets of 10 with each foot. Again, remember to move from the ankle, not the toes.
3. Toe taps
From a standing position with legs hip-width apart, lift the toes of one foot off the ground. Just the toes, not the entire foot. Lay down each toe one at a time, starting at the small toe and working your way to the big toe. Repeat by laying down your big toe and working your way out. Repeat with the other foot.
4. Toe pickups
Place several small objects on the ground such as marbles, game pieces, Superballs, or golf balls. Using your toes only, pick them up one at a time and drop them into a bowl or box. This improves foot mobility and strength.
5. Trigger point release
From a sitting or standing position with one foot on a small-ish ball (think golf or lacrosse ball), roll the ball back and forth along the arch of your foot. Stop on any sore or stiff spots and focus on that area. Repeat on the other foot. This can be done several times a day, perhaps while watching TV or at your desk. If a lacrosse ball is too hard, try RAD’s Point Release Kit.
6. Big toe stretch
The big toe takes a beating wedged into tight shoes. This can impact mobility and flexibility if not addressed. While sitting in a chair, rest your right foot across your left thigh. Using your right hand, stretch your big toe up, down, and to both sides, holding for five seconds at each point. Repeat 10 times and switch feet.
7. Foam rolling
This poor man’s massage uses deep compression to roll out muscle spasms. The compression causes the nerves to relax, gets the blood flowing, and helps the body recover from the stresses of the day, including your training regimen. Glide your sore feet over the roller and hold on to tender points for 30 seconds to alleviate soreness.
8. Toe wall walks
Lie on your back with knees and hips bent to 90 degrees, feet flat against a wall, and arms by your sides. While maintaining contact with the wall, walk your feet as far as you can up the wall by curling your toes and pulling your feet up. At the end of your range of motion, walk your feet down the wall by curling your toes and pushing your feet down. Repeat for a set of 10.
9. Walking in sand
Head to the beach and remove your shoes and socks. Walking in sand strengthens the feet, improves mobility, stability, and proprioception—while helping to counter the effects of wearing shoes most of the time. It’s also a terrific workout for your calves and ankles. Walking on the beach soothes both the soul and your soles.
10. Vibrating platform
If you have access to a PowerPlate or other vibrating platform, exercises such as squats and lunges or just standing on the platform barefoot provide rapid massage and increased blood flow. Vibration also can help strengthen ligaments and muscles in the foot.