Like any body part, your feet and ankles need exercise to stay healthy and limber. Foot pain can arise when we demand a lot from our feet—walking and standing for hours—but forget to give them the care and attention they need.
Try some of these simple stretches and exercises to prevent issues like Plantar Fasciitis, tightness in the arches, toe pain, and Achilles Tendinitis.
Ankle Strengthening Exercises
1. Calf Stretch
What to do: Sit on the floor with one foot stretched out in front of you. Wrap a towel or resistance band around the top of your foot and pull back gently.
What it works: Calves and arches.
How it helps: The calf stretch helps prevent tightness in the Achilles tendon and the Plantar Fascia. When these areas remain limber, it is far less likely that you will over-stretch and injure them.
2. Calf Raises
What to do: Standing on one foot near a wall or piece of furniture for balance, rise on your toes, and hold for ten seconds. For a slightly more challenging exercise, stand with your toes on a step, letting your heels hang off the edge. Let them come down slightly below the step as you lower your heels.
What it works: Calf muscles and Achilles tendon.
How it helps: In addition to improving balance and strengthening calves, calf raises can strengthen your Achilles tendon.
3. Toe Extension
What to do: Loop, a rubber band around all five toes. Expand your toes and hold for several seconds at a time.
What it works: Strengthens and stretches the toes.
How it helps: Strong, flexible toes are less prone to issues like hammertoe and mallet toe, which result from inactivity and poor blood flow.
4. Toe Curl
What to do: Hold a resistance band above your foot and hook it around your toes. Use your toes to pull down the band and hold for three seconds.
What it works: The small muscles in the foot.
How it helps: Strengthening small muscles helps to stabilize the foot and prevent injury to bones and cartilage.
5. Ball Roll
What to do: Use a massage ball or any small ball, like a tennis or golf ball, and roll it along the bottom of the foot.
What it works: Massages the arch, heel, and ball of the foot.
How it helps: This can help ease tightness in the arch, heel, and instep and relieve pain from arthritis.
6. Wall Heel Stretch
What to do: While wearing shoes, stand with your toes facing a wall. Keep your heel on the ground and rest the ball of your feet against the wall. Press your body toward the wall until you feel a gentle stretch.
What it works: Calves, ankles, and heels.
How it helps: Helps circulation in the calves and relieves tightness in the Achilles tendon and ankle ligaments.
7. Hip Flexor Wall Stretch
What to do: With your toes pointed toward a wall, stand in a low lunge position. Place your toes against the wall with your heel remaining on the floor. Put your hands to the ground and press your hips forward until you feel a gentle stretch.
What it works: Feet, ankles, calves, and hip flexors.
How it helps: This stretch is similar to the wall heel stretch but also benefits the hip flexors, which tend to be tight if you frequently wear high heels.
8. Towel Curls
What to do: Sit in a chair and place a small towel under your foot. Using only your toes, scoot the towel toward you and move it back to its starting position.
What it works: Muscles in the toes and arches.
How it helps: Overall, foot strength helps prevent injuries like sprains and strains.
9. Cross-Legged Stretch
What to do: While standing, cross one foot over the other with the toe pointing downward. Bend your knee to press the top of the foot further toward the ground.
What it works: Shins, ankles, and top of the feet.
How it helps: This stretch helps relieve tightness across the top of the foot, an area often neglected when stretching.
10. Hero’s Pose
What to do: To do this yoga pose, kneel on the ground with your toes tucked under you. Then, lower your body to sit back on your heels.
What it works: Calves, heels, toes, and arches.
It helps: Keeps tendons and ligaments limber to help prevent Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis. (You can also keep your toes untucked to help stretch the top of your foot.)