We curl our biceps, bench press our chests, squat our legs, and all kinds of sit up for our core. But most people hardly ever consider the importance of strengthening our feet, all the while we are standing, walking, running, balancing and tip-toeing around.
Feet are your foundation, responsible for transferring the force from your body’s movement to the ground. When your feet are weak, the rest of your body must compensate for the job your feet were designed to do. Strong feet reduce and prevent pain throughout the rest of your body. If your training goal is “glamour muscles”, go for it. But if you are training to maintain movement, flexibility, strength, balance, power, and control, then you must also train your feet.
Here are five ways to increase foot strength:
Feet get stronger fast with Toe Curls. The stretch and flex movement improve the arch support and increase overall foot strength, it also improves flexibility and can help prevent heel pain and stiffness. The improved strength in the toes improve balance.
- Sit up straight in a chair, while resting feet flat on the floor
- Place a small towel on the floor.
- Curl your toes and hold the towel, pulling it toward you
- Repeat the exercise five times, before switching to the other foot
- When this is easy, make it harder by using marbles
Toe curls can easily be adapted to fit into your daily routine, and there is no need to bust out the towel, or yoga mat. Just take your shoes off at your desk and simulate the movement without the towel – it’s the movement that matters, not the towel or the marble.
The toe splay was developed to improve control over the toe muscles. It can be done on both feet at one, or on alternate feet, depending on your comfort level. Another exercise that can be done without getting any exercise gear out.
- Sit in a straight-backed chair with the feet gently resting on the floor.
- Spread the toes apart as far as possible without straining. Hold the position for 5 seconds.
- Relax and repeat 10 times
This is a very important exercise for reducing pain because it’s so effective at maintaining arch strength, which in turn prevents a host of alignment problems in the future. It’s also one of the trickiest exercises to perform:
- Stand with your weight towards the outside of your heel, not the inside.
- Keep your toes flat and press down with your ball of your foot under your big toe lifting your arch.
- Try to keep your toes straight.
- You should feel (and see) your arch lift
- Hold for a few seconds seconds and repeat.
- Repeat up to 10 times
Take off your shoes and walk on grass, sand, rocks etc… There is no better way to strengthen and lengthen the muscles of the foot and calves than walking barefoot. For those lucky enough to live near a beach, walking barefoot on sand is particularly therapeutic it is physically more demanding than walking on a hard surface also the 200,000 nerve endings in the soles of your feet are stimulated with sensory information, which improves your postural stability.
Wearing Minimalist Shoes
It can be difficult to fit all these exercises into your daily routine. Minimalist shoes can help simplify this routine. A recent study published in the journal, ACSM Journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, titled Walking in Minimalist Shoes Is Effective for Strengthening Foot Muscles draws the following conclusion:
“Minimalist shoe walking is as effective as foot strengthening exercises in increasing foot muscle size and strength. The convenience of changing footwear rather than performing specific exercises may result in greater compliance.”
In no way is this an exhaustive list of ways to get strength your feet for say Yoga, Pilates or weightlifting. Our bodies are different and so are our needs, and exercises required to gain and maintain strength in our feet may vary. Personally, I advocate for exercising and wearing better shoes!