This article was previously published on January 27, 2017.
Our feet work hard to support and mobilize our body, but how much attention do we actually pay to them during a workout? Unless you’re a ballet dancer, you are most likely not taking the time to stretch the hundreds of muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your feet. Feet are the foundation of the body, and all parts of the body are connected in movement through a concept called the kinetic chain. This means that when one joint moves, it creates a chain of events throughout the joints in the rest of the body. It all starts from the ground up. You may start to feel your knee, hip or even neck start to hurt and not realize it’s coming from a stiff foot or a funny way you’re distributing your weight to compensate for an injury. Whether you have bunions, sore feet from wearing heels, or plantar fasciitis, these 4 foot stretches will keep your feet and entire body pain free and healthy!
1. Toe stretch– This stretch can be very intense so ease into it slowly. Kneel on the floor with the tops of your feet flat on the ground and sit back onto your heels. Place your hands behind you on the ground and lean back. Start to lift one knee off the ground as you continue to lean back onto your heels and hands, pressing the top of your foot on the floor. The higher you lift your knee and shin off the ground, the deeper the stretch along the top of your foot. Stop and hold the stretch once you feel it. The goal is to maintain the position for 1 minute before switching sides.
2. Reverse Toe Stretch- Start on all fours on the ground with your toes curled under you. Gently sit on your heels with your weight slightly forward. Slowly transfer more weight onto your heels until you reach an upright position with the body. If this is too intense for your feet, back off by leaning more forward until you can maintain the position for at least 1 minute.
3. Foot Circles– This is a great stretch for bunions and plantar fasciitis. Sit on a chair and cross one ankle over the other thigh. The foot that is crossed over should be hanging free off the other thigh. Take the hand opposite to the free foot and place each finger in between each toe. Once the fingers are in position, spreading the toes apart, hold onto the foot and start gently rolling the foot around in clockwise circles. Do 20 times and then reverse the circles for another 20.
4. Calf and Achilles Stretch– When women wear heels, it shortens the Achilles tendon and calves. This is a great stretch to reverse the damage from wearing heels or just for prepping the feet and ankles for any sort of physical activity. Stand in parallel with one leg in front of you and one leg behind you. Lunge forward, keeping the back leg straight. You may lean your body weight forward while pressing the back heel down to get a deeper stretch in the back calf. Hold for 10 seconds and then transfer your weight to the back as you bend the back knee and straighten the front leg. Keep pressing the back heel to the ground and you will now feel the stretch in the back leg’s Achilles tendon. Hold for 10 seconds and then repeat the sequence 2-3 more times before switching legs.
Even if you don’t have foot pain, it’s important to pay attention to the muscles in your feet now as much as you would any other muscle in your body. We need our feet to stay mobile and active throughout our long lives–so take care of them!
Also by Crystal: 4 Chiropractor-Approved Stretches to Relieve Neck Pain and Tension
Related: Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain
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Video: Crystal Chin; Music: “Attack the Doctor” by Blockhead