Foot pain is a common complaint among Americans these days. In fact, a whopping 83 percent of adults say they suffer from chronic foot pain. If you deal with foot pain on a regular basis, part of the problem might be a lack of foot strength. Your feet are full of tons of tiny muscles, and if you don’t exercise those muscles, you’re more likely to end up with imbalances and other issues that contribute to your pain and discomfort. Read on to learn more about why foot strength is so important. You’ll also learn some effective foot exercises to improve your foot strength and reduce your pain.
Why Foot Strength Matters
There are lots of reasons to make foot strength a priority. Remember that the feet, as well as the toes and ankles, are just like any other part of the body. They need to be stretched and strengthened to help you perform your best (whether you’re an athlete, an average gym-goer, or just someone who wants to feel better doing everyday activities). Some even argue that the feet need more attention than other parts of the body because most people wear shoes on a regular basis that contribute to dysfunction, from high heels to highly cushioned walking shoes that minimize our contact with the ground below us. If your feet are weak or dysfunctional, all of your movements will be thrown off. The way you walk will change, the way you climb stairs will change, the way you bend down to pick something up off the ground will change — you get it. These changes, even when they’re subtle, can contribute to other poor movement patterns and cause pain in other areas of the body, including the lower back and hamstrings.
Causes of Foot Pain
In addition to dysfunction caused by our shoes, there are also some specific conditions that can contribute to foot pain and weakness in the muscles of the feet. The following are some of the most well-known causes of foot pain:
- Achilles Tendinitis
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Stress fractures
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome
Arthritis in the joints of the feet, toes, or ankles can also contribute to pain and muscle weakness.
Top 7 Foot Exercises
There are plenty of reasons why you might experience foot pain. Regardless of the cause of your pain, though, these foot exercises can help to minimize your symptoms and improve your quality of life:
1. Toe Raises and Curls
To do this exercise, start by sitting with your feet flat on the ground. Raise the toes off the floor while making sure the feet maintain contact. Reverse the movement and curl the toes in toward you. Don’t let your feet or heels come up off the ground.
2. Toe Spreads
Keep your feet flat on the ground and slowly spread your toes out to the sides as far as you can. Bring them back in and repeat. To make this exercise more challenging, wrap an elastic band around your toes for extra resistance.
3. Toe Extensions
Raise one of your legs and cross it so your foot is resting on the opposite thigh. Use your hands to pull the toes of the lifted foot back. You should feel a stretch in the toes, as well as the ball and arch of the foot.
4. Towel Grabs
Place a small towel or washcloth on the ground. Use your toes to pull the towel toward you and pick it up, then set it back down and repeat on the other side.
5. Marble Pick-ups
This is similar to the towel grab but is a bit more advanced. Place a marble or small ball on the ground, then use your toes to pick it up. Repeat with the other foot. When this is easy, you can move on and start practicing with smaller objects.
6. Theraband Flexion and Extension
You can buy Therabands online or at sporting goods stores. Wrap the band around the ball of your foot and grasp one end of the band in each hand. Pull back on the band to create tensions and flex and point your foot. Be sure to repeat on the other side.
7. Tennis Ball Squeezes
You’ll need to stand up for this exercise. Stand with your feet close together and place a tennis ball in between your ankles. Hold the ball in place as you slowly rise up on your toes and lower yourself back down. Don’t the ball fall. If you need help maintaining your balance, hold on to a wall or a chair for support.
Bonus Foot Pain Relief Tips
In addition to performing the exercises listed above, there are some other steps you can take to relieve pain in your feet. The following are some of the most effective strategies to try:
- Invest in supportive shoes
- Wear custom insoles to support your arches
- Give your feet plenty of rest
- Alternate between ice and heat
- Use over-the-counter pain relievers
There’s a lot you can do on your own to manage and reduce your foot pain. It’s important to also see a doctor, though, and get a formal diagnosis. This will help you get more targeted care. For example, after visiting the doctor and finding out you have plantar fasciitis, you can help yourself with these five exercises. The more targeted your care is, the sooner you’ll start to see results.
Start Strengthening Your Feet Today
As you can see, good foot strength is essential if you want to feel your best walking around day in and day out. These stretching and strengthening foot exercises and tips can help you to address muscle imbalances in your feet and minimize the pain and discomfort you feel. You’ll be amazed at the improvements you see after a few weeks of consistent training. Do you want to learn some other strengthening exercises? Do you have other muscle imbalances that might be contributing to pain or other issues? If so, be sure to check out the Orthopedics section of our site today for more advice.