If you are on the fence about trying minimalist shoes, there are some exercises that can help strengthen your feet in order to help you make the transition from standard footwear. By strengthening your feet and ankles, your feet will be better prepared to withstand the change to minimalist footwear.  If you haven’t read it, LJ has written a past blog on foot exercises which includes toe curls, toe splays, and arch lifts. This blog provides a starting point for exercises, and LJ will offer 5 more movements to augment your foot repertoire. 

According to Dr. Sherman Nagler, a Board Certified foot and ankle surgeon, at Nagler Foot Center in Houston, there are several exercises to incorporate into your routine to help strengthen the foot. Fortunately, these can be done at work or at home without the need for expensive equipment. LJ features 5 exercises that could help your soles. 

Foot rolls 

If you have a tennis ball or see an abandoned one in the park, grab it as it will become your foot’s best friend.  While barefoot, take one foot and roll it back and forth over the tennis ball for 10 minutes. Switch feet to utilize both sides of the body. Dr. Nagler suggests that this move “can help relieve plantar fasciitis,” so make sure to apply gentle pressure to your tender points. Aim to repeat this exercise 3 times daily on each foot. Don’t be surprised if it feels more like a foot massage than an exercise. 

Photo courtesy of Planet Fitness

Ankle pump up and down

This is another simple exercise you can do anywhere like when you’re waiting for a doctor’s appointment to start. With both feet starting on the ground, raise your right foot and flex it towards your shin. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Next, take the same foot and point it down and hold this for 10 seconds. Repeat the stretch on the other side. Both up and down holds will work to help the range of movement in your ankles. Repeat this movement 3 times each day.

Photo courtesy of University of Texas at Austin, Division of Student Affairs - University Health Services 

Towel tug

It’s not quite like tug of war, but grab a kitchen towel or an old rag that is long enough that you can loop it around the sole of your right foot. Extend both legs in front of you on the floor.  Hold each end of the towel in your hands, and pull the towel towards you until you feel a stretch in your right calf. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Then, repeat the move on the other side. Maintain tension on the towel, but not so much that your arms or feet are in pain. Avoid rounding your back.  Complete this move twice daily with each foot. 

Photo courtesy of Healthline

Calf raises and negative calf raises

This move doesn’t involve livestock, but Dr. Nagler offers that “this exercise will help strengthen your toes, calf muscles, and Achilles.” Find a set of steps at your house and start on the lowest one. If you need extra support make sure there is a railing or wall plus plenty of room to avoid falls. If you are prone to falls, have another person nearby as a safeguard.  

Your right toes should stay slightly on the stair so that you are able to flex and extend your ankle. Your right heel should be off of the stairs. One option is to bend your left foot behind you (like you're holding a butt kick) but only opt for this if you don’t have balance issues.  Rise up on your right foot for the calf raise and slowly lower it to a count of 2-4 seconds until your heel is back to the step. The controlled tempo of the exercise can be 2 seconds raising the calf, pausing at the top of the exercise, and lowering for 2 seconds.  The lowering phase of the exercise is called the negative or eccentric contraction. An eccentric contraction challenges your calf muscle to stabilize and control the weight of your body. In fact, you are actively working to resist gravity which bolsters strength (Matteo, Eccentric Exercise Benefits and Risks).  

If balance is a concern, you can do the exact same movement with both feet at the same time while holding onto a support. One version is not better than the other; it’s choosing what works best for your body. Repeat either a single calf raise/lowering 8 times with each foot or perform 8 total body calf raises/lowerings. As you feel stronger, increase to 12 repetitions. 

Photo courtesy of Workouts Programs

Toe pick-ups

No cheesy one-liners are needed, but you will need to ransack your kids’ toys and find objects like legos (but don’t step on these!), marbles, stones, or chess pieces to borrow. Scatter them across your floor and work one by one to pick up the pieces with the toes of your right foot. Dunk the pieces in a mug or tupperware to win! Switch to allow the left toes to sub in to the game. Repeat this challenge 3 times daily just in time for March Madness🏀. Only pick up one item at a time or it’s a flagrant foul, and you’ll need to dump and restart from the beginning. 

Photo courtesy of Feet and Feet

Maintaining the integrity of your foot and ankle can keep you walking to see all of Colorado’s wonders. Head over to LJs to see what minimalist shoes would suit you best.   

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