A good stretch will go a long way before you hit the gym, and while people often stretch their arms, shoulders, quads, and calves, they tend to forget to stretch their feet (yes, you can stretch your feet). Your feet are your base of support, the first connection to the rest of your body has to the ground. Even if you aren’t on your feet all day, they still receive the most pressure. Here are some ways you can stretch your feet to get them feeling better.
First, it’s important to remember that if you have or develop a foot problem, it can lead to many other issues. For example, a reduced range of motion in the foot can affect your entire leg and thus affect your back. This means that that lower back pain you’ve been feeling can sometimes be linked to foot health.
No matter how well your shoes fit, your toes are held in the same position for long periods of time, and this can also affect your overall health! For runners, or anyone wearing closed toe shoes, it can be extremely uncomfortable and even painful if you wear shoes that are too tight and cause cramped toes. Your toes should naturally push down when you walk and they tend to do the opposite when toe muscles tighten, which can cause discomfort. It’s important to stretch your toes and feet to get them lose, even if you may be sitting.
When your feet and toes are in the right position, you’re able to distribute your weight evenly, which gives you more support. If you do yoga, think about the way you balance on one foot. It’s easier to keep your balance if you plant your foot firmly into the ground and spread your toes, and some of us do this naturally. Allowing your feet and toes to move and position themselves naturally (without shoes) tends to help improve overall foot health. Other than increasing mobility and helping prevent foot injuries like plantar fasciitis, healthy, well-positioned toes also help avoid fungal infections like athlete’s foot and calluses. Here are the best ways to stretch your feet and toes:
Flex Backwards and Forwards
This is probably the easiest and most convenient one of them all, as you can do this sitting down. With your legs flat and straight out in front of you, flex your foot all the way back (towards you) and then point your toes away from you as far as you can. Repeat this multiple times. For an even deeper stretch, you can use a resistance band under your feet while you are flexing backward and forwards.
Use a Step
Stand on a step with about the front third of your feet, and let your heels hang off the edge (make sure that you are not too far off that you can’t keep your balance). Keep this position for about 5-10 seconds. Next, push yourself up on the balls of your feet with your heels up and hold it there for the same amount of time. You can repeat this until you feel that they are stretched out. You can also do a similar stretch with your toes on the wall and your heel on the floor.
Use a Tennis Ball
If you’ve gotten a massage, this is basically the same concept (and also much cheaper). If you can’t find someone to give you a foot rub, don’t fret. Place a tennis ball on the ground and use one foot to stand on it, with the other foot flat on the ground. Using your leg, put as much pressure on the ball for a few seconds. Next, roll the ball under your foot and to a different area of your footpad and repeat the process.
Don’t forget your toes:
- Lift your toes. First your big toes and then the rest.
- Pull your toes apart. This is simple enough, and using a toe separator (often used for pedicures) can be very effective.
- Pull your little and big toes away from each other simultaneously.
- If there are any pointing too far upwards or too far downwards, straighten them out flat.