Exercises to Strengthen Feet
Heel pain affects numerous people every year for many different reasons. It develops from sports injuries, nerve damage, arthritis, and even simply general wear and tear on the lower limbs. When the problem is an overuse injury—which is quite common—exercises to strengthen and stretch the lower limbs can actually go a long way towards relieving your discomfort and pain.
Overuse-related heel pain tends to develop when the back of your foot faces excessive pressure and physical stress. By strengthening your feet and stretching the soft tissues that can become tight, you can alleviate that pressure and relieve some of the pain. Here are a few exercises that are proven to help:
- Calf raises – Stand on a step with your heels hanging off the edge. Slowly rise up on your toes so your heels are as high as they can go, then lower to neutral and repeat.
- Calf stretches – Basic calf stretches, such as the wall stretch (where you place your hands on the wall and take a step back with one leg), alleviate tightness in the back of the foot.
- Pebble pick-up – Sit in a chair and use just your toes to pick up pebbles, marbles, or other small objects and then place them in a cup or bowl beside you.
- Regular walks – Walking itself is actually good for your feet over all. Start with short walks, then gradually increase your time and distance.
- Toe walking – Walk across a room balancing on tip-toe, so your heels don’t touch the ground.
In addition to heel pain, exercises to strengthen feet are important when you have developed ankle instability. Unstable ankles are typically one of the long-term side effects of an unhealed sprain or having sustained too many sprains to the same ankle. The ligaments that normally stabilize your joint are too loose and unable to support you in the way they should—so your foot feels wobbly and more easily collapses to one side under pressure. The problem can get worse, too, unless you do something to support your ankles.
This is where strengthening exercises come into play. Ligaments aren’t the only tissues that stabilize your ankles. Muscles and tendons also surround this joint and can help accommodate the overstretched ligaments. The right exercises build up strength in your muscles and help your ankle become stable again. Here are a few to help boost your ankle stability:
- Ankle circles – Holding your leg out, rotate your foot in circles at the ankle ten times in each direction.
- Balancing exercises – Practice balancing on your unstable foot. As this gets easier, make it harder by closing your eyes or standing on a pillow.
- Eccentric heel drops – Stand on the edge of a step, with your heels hanging over the edge. Slowly lower your heels until they are as low as you can take them. Rise back up to the starting position and repeat ten times.
- Figure eights – Walk briskly in a figure eight pattern. Each day, make your figure eight slightly bigger and walk a little faster.
- Resistance band pulls – Wrap a resistance band around your foot. Hold it out to one side while you rotate your ankle in the opposite direction so it presses against the band. Do this to both sides.
Even with a proper exercise program, you may still need other methods to reduce pressure on the back of the foot, like shoe changes or orthotic devices. Our team at Premier Podiatry Group is happy to assess your condition, determine the root cause, and then create a treatment plan to address it for you. Make an appointment at our Ebensburg, PA office by calling (814) 472-2660 or use our online form to contact us for more information today.