Exercises to Help with Foot Pain



What area of the body is supporting your weight, responsible for telling your brain what surface you are on and setting forth a cascade of muscle activations helping to determine how forces are placed through the lower body, trunk and ultimately the upper body AND we tend to forget about it when composing our exercise program…The FOOT!

The foot makes up about 25% of the total amount of bones in the body. These bones are stabilized by 107 ligaments and 10 muscles and tendons originating within and outside of the foot. Movement is the key to developing these structures with respect to strength, stability and mobility; however, we no longer move as much or on as varied surfaces as our ancestors. Furthermore, many of us, including myself, have occasional (if not frequently) succumb to fashion by wearing shoes that may be too tight or loose, too narrow or wide, or too supportive or not supportive at all. If we have decided to put fashion to the side and focus on function, the overwhelming world of workout shoes comes your way. To help you navigate this world, here is a great blog on footwear: http://totalgymdirect.com/total-gym-blog/important-facts-about-buying-good-workout-shoes.

Great footwear is recommended for outdoor activities, and required in most gym settings, but, if you can take those shoes off, it can be the first step in foot training. Since we have become more sedentary or stationary, the foot is not having the opportunity to experience varying pressure points, which helps the brain and muscles respond to balance challenges. The first exercise in your foot program is to redevelop awareness of what your foot is doing by varying your weight distribution through your foot. To do this, you can use the upper body reaching in varying directions to help drive the foot into different positions. The key is to allow the entire body to move. You can start with one arm and progress to both arms, you can also reach in smaller and progress to larger range of motion.

 

Arm reaches in each position
Foot Positions
Forward shoulder to overheadFeet forward Hip distance
Same side shoulder to overhead
Opposite side overhead
Feet hip distance right forward
Rotate same sideFeet hip distance left foot forward
Rotate opposite 

 

Now the foot is awake and your brain aware, let’s get the muscles working.

Placing a towel under the foot and scrunching the toes used to be a go to foot strengthening exercise, however, it does not necessarily work the deeper muscles, which can be responsible for helping support the arches of the foot and dissipating forces. A well-known exercise called Janda short foot can help target these deeper muscles. The goal of this exercise is to slide not scrunch the toes. You can sit to decrease weight bearing and then progress to standing in varying positions to help further develop strength, stability and awareness.

Sit/stand with your feet hip distance facing forward. Focus on sliding the toes back toward the heel without scrunching the toes. Feel the middle of the foot start to lift as the underside muscles of the foot are working. Keep pressure through the heel and balls of foot, avoid rolling out onto either side.

  • Ideally when participating in your Total Gym workout, start to draw attention not only to all the cues for proper exercise execution but also what the foot is doing. When the foot is stationary, you can activate the short foot exercise and/or focus on equal weight through the balls of the feet and heels. A great blog that not only reviews proper technique but provides a quick go to lower body workout is http://totalgymdirect.com/total-gym-blog/do-you-have-good-leg-form-on-the-total-gym.

 

Enhancing your foot stability into your routine. The awareness exercise above actually is triple duty for awareness, strength and stability. Varying the height or degree of your reach, as well as, the foot positions or single leg with and without toe touch will challenge stability requirements. This exercise will also prep your balance for exercises such as lunging with varying your reaches.

 

Lastly, show your foot some love by stretching, rolling or even massaging the foot.  You can incorporate stretching the underside of your foot with pulling the toes toward your head as you perform a calf stretch. You can also kneel and tuck your toes under to feel the stretch. Sitting and massaging the underside of the foot and separating the toes, as well as, rolling the underside of the foot with a water bottle or even a small ball are easy ways to give a little stretch and appreciation to a part of your body that does so much yet is often overlooked.

 

 

Hope this helps you to appreciate all that the feet do and with a little more attention provided to them, you can help prevent lower body fatigue and injuries like plantar fasciitis, as well as, improve loading to the joints though better force distribution.

 

 

 

Arm reaches in each position
Foot Positions
Forward shoulder to overheadFeet forward Hip distance
Same side shoulder to overhead
Opposite side overhead
Feet hip distance right forward
Rotate same sideFeet hip distance left foot forward
Rotate opposite 

 

 

 

Janda Short Foot

Sitting to standing

 

Give your foot some love and appreciation with stretching it out

 

Calf stretch pulling the toes back, low kneeling stretching, using a ball to roll, bring toe spreaders, and massaging.

Elizabeth Leeds, DPT

Elizabeth Leeds, owner of Seaside Fitness and Wellness, combines her background in physical therapy, personal training, and Pilates in her practice and teaching. As a pelvic floor physical therapist working at Comprehensive Therapy Services in San Diego, her passion for pregnancy and postpartum is seen in her mission to empower women with knowledge and understanding of their physical changes, and how to address them to prevent future issues.Additionally, Elizabeth is a Master Trainer and developer for Total Gym’s GRAVITY education.

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