Feet are our foundation and they need to be strong. Generally our feet are weak due to wearing shoes and forgetting we even have feet. Walking barefoot and exercising without shoes are a good starting point (if you dont have any injuries or pains).
During running you create 3-4 times your body weight in force which are transferred into your feet. Your tendons and muscles work like pulleys and create stabiliity around joints. The fact that feet can withstand this force is a genius of bio-engineering.
Basic Foot Anatomy
Each foot contain 26 bones with 20 intrinsic muscles originating from one part of the foot and inserting into another. In addition, another 20 extrinsic muscles act on each foot, originating from higher up the leg and inserting into the foot.
It’s a complex arrangement, but essential for good mechanics and performance.
Weakness or dysfunction leads to poor biomechanics (body movement), which amplifies the effort required to perform day to day movements. Strengthening the foot muscles is fundamental to develop control, stability and help limit injuries.
Here are three essential strengthening exercises every active person could do to keep feet performing at their best. Additional strengthening exercises can be prescribed after discussion with your podiatrist.
Splay your toes (use a rubber band or similar)
Sitting with your knee at 90 degrees to your foot place a rubber band or similar around the toes. Now attempt to spread your toes against this resistance. If this is too hard then start without using the band. Practise and it will get easier.
Use your feet to pick things up
While seated, practise picking a towel up off the ground with your toes. Begin by spreading your toes, grab the towel, and curl them to pick it up. It’s harder than you might think!
Rise onto your toes and lower slowly
Standing tall with both feet facing forward slowly raise from flat foot up onto the balls of your feet. If you need to hold on for balance that is fine, the more you practise the easier it will get. Now hold at the top for a few seconds and SLOWLY return your heel to the floor. Controlled action making sure your big toe remains in ground contact throughout the entire exercise.
These tips may sound simple, but improving foot strength offers huge benefits. Take your shoes off at home and walk on various surfaces (tiles, carpet, grass outside), this is great for strengthening. When brushing your teeth stand barefoot on one leg and balance. Easy to fit this one into your day (twice a day).
Don’t forget your feet. Help them become supple, flexible and strong, and you will walk/run with more ease.