Foot care is probably one of the least discussed topics – we rely on our feet every day, we know how important they are for our movement, and their role in balance and support for the upper body. However, we don’t seem to care all that much, until something serious happens that causes pain or leads to us needing some immediate medical attention!
You don’t have to go through the pain or trouble of finding a solution to foot problems like foot calluses and corns – make it easier on yourself by keeping your feet flexible and healthy by following proper hygiene, lifestyle, and regular foot exercises.
Here are some simple workouts to keep the feet healthy.
Walk Without Shoes
We took to shoes to protect the feet from external dangers. But, nowadays, doctors are suggesting we shed them to save our feet from the ill effects of too much support.
One of the crucial functions of shoes is to support our feet and reduce stress on the arches, toes, and heels. Nevertheless, at times, too much support can do more harm than good.
Millions of years of evolution have created the perfect walking tool – Feet. Experts feel we’re weakening the feet by wearing shoes. For most people, especially in the western society, it has become habit-forming, and they are dependent on external support for their feet.
To strengthen the feet and prevent dependence on shoes, walk barefoot, at least at home, for a short period of time every day. The difference you’ll experience will be immediate and apparent. Instead of landing on the heels, your foot placement will be flatter, which is how it needs to be. Barefoot lifestyle is not beneficial to the feet alone; it’s equally helpful in reducing stress on the knees.
Earthing or walking barefoot on the natural surface has gone from being an eccentric behavior to scientifically accepted exercise and therapy. A number of studies have established the benefit of walking barefoot on different surfaces – grass, sand, wood, etc.
Wearing shoes has changed the way we normally walk. The extra support and shock absorbing sole and heels don’t allow normal flexing of our foot muscles. In the long run, this will lead to foot muscle weakening.
Walking barefoot on different surfaces activates and trains different muscles and ligaments to gradually increase strength and flexibility of the foot.
Work on Your Balance
Before we take up weight training, jogging, or cycling, we go through a phase with the aim of improving our balance. For this purpose, we rely on, easily available, boards, bands, and balance trainers – these low-impact equipment are ideal for general and localized training. They are extremely effective, yet gentle on the joints and ligaments.
Exercise rope and bands are a simple and risk-free way to strengthen the foot. For the absolute beginners, tie the rope or band to a wall or a heavy object, the other end should be positioned around the toe area. Now, gently pull the band backward, maintain the pose for a few seconds, and return to the default position. Repeat the routine few more times before moving to the board exercise.
Board exercises are most beneficial for strengthening the ankles. Place the exercise board at an angle (around 20-30 degrees) and position yourself on it. This will activate the muscles in the rear part of the foot.
Those who already aced the low and intermediate level foot exercises are best suited to use the balance trainers. Exercises performed using the balance trainers stimulate all major muscle groups in the legs and feet.
Heel Lift Exercise
A fusion of ballet and yoga, the heel lift exercise will improve the balance, flexibility, and strength of the feet. Like the ballerinas, slowly lift your heels as high as possible, and while doing so, inhale deeply. The heel movement and breathing-in action should be in tandem. Once the heels are fully raised, hold the position for a few seconds. Slowly lower the heels so as to feel each part of the foot touching the surface. Fully exhale when you bring the heels down.
The pointe technique in ballet, in which the ballerinas support the body weight on the tip of the pointe shoes when it’s fully extended, is considered the highest level of heel lift. Stories are told how the legendary Margot Fonteyn, the prima ballerina assoluta of the Royal Ballet, used pointe posture when climbing down the stairs in her home. One thing is sure – the ballerina who gave her final performance at the age of 66 and could use the pointe technique so masterfully, must have amazingly strong and flexible feet.
Strengthen the Foot Arches
The three arches in the foot – 2 longitudinal and 1 anterior transverse are key to a number of functions. The arches aid movement on the uneven surfaces, helps in distribution of body weight on the foot, protects the nerves and blood vessels, and assists in the propulsive action in the foot. In the foot, a number of bones, tendons, and ligaments combine to form the three arches. Regular exercise is needed to preserve and improve the functioning of the three arches.
A few minutes of arch exercise on a daily basis can keep the bones, tendons, and ligaments flexible and strong. Sit comfortably on a chair and raise a foot in the air slightly. With the ankle as the base, rotate the foot 5-10 times clockwise, and then rotate in the anti-clockwise direction. Repeat the same process with the other foot.
We believe in the old adage – prevention is better than cure. While advances in the medical sciences can cure almost any foot-related problem, the prudent path is to prevent a problem from occurring in the first place.
The exercises mentioned here are for anyone wanting to maintain and improve the balance, flexibility, and strength of their feet. Do not risk doing these exercises if you suffer from any foot problem or pain. The exercises mentioned here can be performed by anybody, at any time, and almost anywhere.