By Michael Nirenberg, DPM
I can hear the couch potatoes now: “My feet get enough exercise.” Perhaps, but walking to the fridge or standing in line at McDonald’s isn’t exactly exercise.
Most people agree our entire body needs exercise, but few people think about keeping their feet in shape. Yet, with the average person walking over a hundred thousand miles in their lifetime, feet need all the help they can get.
Foot exercises tone, stretch and strengthen feet, while alleviating fatigue, soothing soreness and increasing blood flow. And foot exercises are great preventative medicine; by keeping feet in shape, you lessen the chance of injury. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk for foot injuries, such as a sedentary person who does short bouts of activity-also known as a “weekend warrior.” Foot exercises are also a great way to relax and reward your feet-and yourself-after a long day standing or walking.
The following exercises here are sneaky. They are so easy to do that you may not think you’re achieving much, but the next day you’ll feel the difference. Start slowly and in time, increase the repetitions.
This is a great warm up exercise. While seated in a chair, roll a golf ball around under the sole of each foot. This exercise increases blood flow and alleviates tension and arch strain, regardless of your handicap.
Here’s a good exercise to do while seated. Place a towel under your bare foot, and then curl your toes, grasping the towel. This exercise works the toe muscles and helps tone the ball of the foot.
You don’t need a car or a driver’s license for this exercise-just a chair. While seated, remove your shoe, extend your leg so your knee is straight and then with your heel on the floor, pretend you’re slowly pumping the gas pedal. Bend your foot down as far as it will go, then pull it up as high as possible. This exercise tones your foot, ankle and leg muscles. And it’s a great way to take a break if you work at a desk, especially if while doing it you picture yourself driving through a serene countryside-just don’t let your boss catch you.
Loop a big, thick rubber band around all five toes on one foot and then try to spread your toes apart, working against the rubber band’s tension. For this exercise’s second part, slip the rubber band over both big toes and then gently pull your feet apart. Both of these exercises are excellent for strengthening toe muscles and for people who suffer from bunions.
This exercise isn’t an excuse for a martini, but having one probably wouldn’t hurt. While seated, place your bare feet flat on the floor and without lifting your toes off the floor, raise both heels up as high as possible. Pretend you are standing on the tips of your toes and then relax.
For this exercise’s second part, keep your heels and the balls of your feet on the floor, and pull your toes upward as high as they can go. Repeat this exercise several times and the tension will just ooze out of your toes, especially if you had that martini.
I saved the best one for last: walking. While not true pilates, anyone who is serious about exercising their feet should walk. I am not talking about trudging onto your porch to retrieve the morning paper, but vigorous, treadmill, track or around-your-block walking. If you do this regularly, you will not only help your feet, but your entire body.
Lastly, these exercises are not for everyone. Always check with your doctor before starting this or any exercise program.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Nirenberg or another podiatrist at Friendly Foot Care, please call (219)663-2273. To learn about our amazing feet and ankles, visit Dr. Nirenberg’s blog, America’s Podiatrist.