3 Foot Stretches You Should Do Every Day, According to Podiatrists
Your feet (and those foot muscles) put in a lot of hard work throughout the day, whether you're wearing high heels to work or literally pounding the pavement during your morning workout. Plus, as we get older, our feet start to show their age, no matter how many times we try that baby foot peel.
"One of the most common functional deformities is hyperpronation, or flat foot, which is known to cause many conditions like bunions, hammer toe, and plantar fasciitis," explains LA-based podiatrist Albert A. Nejat, DPM, FACFAS. "Stretching the feet, but mainly the calves and hamstrings, can be very beneficial in reducing hyperpronation and other issues." With that in mind, do these exercises three times every day to promote strong, healthy feet. (While you're at it, considering working some other stretching into your routine—these lower back stretches are a great place to start.)
One of the best stretches for your feet is actually your run-of-the-mill cardio cooldown.
"There are two calf muscles that meet at the ankle to form your Achilles tendon, the soleus, and the gastroc, and they are responsible for the movement of your foot," says North-Carolina based podiatrist and American Podiatric Medical Association spokesperson Jane Andersen, DPM. "These muscles are notoriously tight, so the best way to loosen them is with your classic runner's stretch, ideally after exercise when your muscles are warmed up."
Lean against the wall with your front leg bent and your back leg stretched straight behind you. Try to put the heel of your back leg down on the ground. Dr. Andersen recommends holding it for 30 seconds on each side to get a deeper stretch. This stretch can be done as part of your post-workout routine or even while you're brushing your teeth.
Obviously, the key to healthy feet isn't all in the legs.
"There are intrinsic muscles in your feet that move your toes, in between the metatarsal bones, and that keeps your toes from becoming contracted, which can ultimately develop into hammer toes," says Dr. Andersen. "As you age, those muscles between your toes get weaker, so stretching them can slow down deterioration."
Think of your foot like a hand, and spread out your toes like you would your fingers, opening them and bringing them back together. Aim for eight to ten stretches two or three times a day.
If you often wake with stiff legs and feet, try this exercise before even getting out of bed.
"In a seated position, place the mid-portion of a non-elastic strap on the bottom of your forefoot. You can use a leather belt, yoga strap, or even a towel," says Dr. Nejat. "With a slightly bent knee and a straight back, gently pull the ankle up until you feel a pull in the back of your calf. Hold for about 20 seconds on each side, and try not to bounce the leg."
Slowly bend and extend the knee for 20 seconds on each side. Finally, with your leg extended, bend your torso toward your knee to also get a stretch in your hamstring.
With consistent care of your precious paws, you can undo some of the damage that comes with activity and age, keeping your feet healthy (and pain-free) for years to come.