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Feet Are Really Important!

Where would we be without our feet? Well… probably sitting a lot. Lame jokes aside, our feet are extremely important, not only for walking and standing, but they’re the foundation for our whole body. Have you ever noticed that if one side of your foot hurts – if it’s bruised, or broken – you put your weight on the other side when you step? This causes a whole cascade of effects all the way up your body. If you weight your foot unevenly for too long, your knee joint and hip joint will also wear unevenly, damaging the cartilage. You may also throw your low back our of alignment. Clearly, it is important to take care of our feet!

There are actually many strengthening and stretching self-care exercises that can be done at home to take care of our feet. Today, I’ll talk about two of them.

1. Arch Strengthening.

Over time, if you aren’t careful, gravity may start to collapse your arch down. Rather than relying 100% on shoe inserts to prop your foot into its normal position (note that some of us, born with “funky feet”, will always need a little help), why not try strengthening the arch as best as we can? You will need bare feet and maybe a handtowel, if you want the tactile sensation of something scrunching up under your toes. Sit upright in a chair with the towel under one of your feet. Your working foot will make a doming, or inchworming, motion: curl your toes under as your knuckles point more toward the ceiling, creating room under your arch. You will create space under your foot, and your heel will drag forward. When you’ve scrunched all the way forward, release your toes, set them back down flat (now farther forward), ,and repeat the process, inchworming your foot forward again. Repeat 3-4 times, or until your foot and leg can’t physically go any farther forward. Repeat the entire process on the other foot. ***If your foot starts to cramp, do take a break! Don’t push through this! And it’s OK to pause, cross the working foot/ankle over the opposite knee, and massage the bottom of your foot with your thumbs to work out any cramps before trying again.

2. Foot and Toe Mobility/Agility.

You might not realize the importance of all five of your toes, but pressure from each one of them is key to maintaining our balance. The following exercise will help strengthen your toes and the muscles in your forefoot that help control the movement of your toes. You will need a short cup and several (20 or so) coins of various sizes. Sit in a chair, and set the empty cup on the floor with the coins on the floor surrounding the cup. Using one foot, pick up the coins and drop them into the cup. To really challenge your control, try going for one coin at a time, and perhaps try using more the outside of your foot than the inside for some of the coins. When you’ve gone through all 20 coins once or twice with one foot, do the same on the other foot. Again, if you can, try to focus not only on your first and second toes, which are most likely your strongest toes, but also on your third, fourth, and fifth toes, which are also key in our walking and balance.

Work through these exercises a few times a week. You may find that your calf muscles fatigue–they’re working hard, as well, during these moves, so give them a little extra stretching love.

If you routinely do these exercises, with any luck, you can minimize or avoid plantar fasciiitis and other nasty foot maladies! Try them out, and let me know what you think!

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