It’s no secret that our feet have some seriously hard work to do every day. With each movement, we put immense weight, pressure and stress on various areas of our feet (and often don’t realize it until a problem arises). According to a recent survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), 61% of women spend more than four hours on their feet daily,¹ which highlights just how important it is to take a proactive and preventative approach to foot care.
Whether you’re looking to improve strength and flexibility, reduce pain and soreness, prevent injuries when working out or simply relax and unwind, at-home foot stretches can help.² Strengthening stretches can help your muscles provide more protection and support to your feet, while slower, more gentle stretches can improve foot flexibility. Below we’ve rounded up the five essential at-home stretches for overall foot health.
First, make sure you warm up your feet before attempting any stretches.³ To do this, simply:
- Sit on a chair with feet flat on the floor.
- Lift your left leg so that your foot is off the floor. Then, use your big toe to make circles in the air, moving in a clockwise direction, for 15 to 20 rotations.
- Reverse the direction and make another 15 to 20 circles, this time in a counterclockwise direction.
- Repeat with your right foot.
If 15-20 rotations feels like a lot, feel free to do as many as you can with the goal of working up to more.
Stretch #1: The Toe Flex
This stretch will help you gain better control over your toe muscles.
- Sit on a chair with your feet gently resting on the floor.
- Spread all your toes apart as far as comfortable and hold for five seconds.
- Repeat 10 times.
For a more comprehensive toe stretch, try Spaced Out™. These gel toe stretchers help relieve pain and tightness by gently spreading foot and toe muscles in the opposite direction of the compressing forces from cramped shoes. Just a few minutes per day is all you need to feel the results.
Stretch #2: The Intrinsic Muscles Stretch
This movement can help prevent hammer toes, bunions and neuromas.
- Slip the fingers of your right hand in between the toes of your left foot (like you’re shaking hands with your foot).
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, stretching the muscles in between the long bones (metatarsals) of your foot.
- Then, pull your toes down to stretch the top of the toes and foot. Hold for 5 seconds and the entire exercise 10 times.
- Repeat with the left hand and right foot.
Stretch #3: The Foot & Ankle Extensors Stretch
This exercise helps guard against shin splints and stress fractures.
- Kneel down on both knees with a rolled-up towel on the floor under your feet (underneath where your toes meet the top of your foot).
- Gently roll back, sitting your hips onto your heels until you feel a stretch across the top of your feet, ankles and shins.
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat twice.
Stretch #4: The Toe Raise
This stretch improves the range of flexibility in the feet and toes.
- Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Keep your toes flat on the ground and raise your heels until only the balls of your feet and toes connect with the ground. Hold for five seconds.
- Point your toes so that only the ends of your big and second toes touch the ground. Hold for five seconds.
- Keep your heel off the ground and roll your toes under so that that tops of your toes touch the ground. Hold for five seconds.
- Repeat each position 10 times.
Stretch #5: The Achilles Stretch
This movement will strengthen the Achilles tendon, which may help relieve foot, ankle, or leg pain.
- Face a wall and raise your arms overhead so that the palms rest flat against the wall.
- Step one foot back, keeping the knee straight. Then bend the knee of the opposite leg. Keep both heels flat on the floor.
- Push your hips forward until the Achilles tendon can be felt stretching.
- Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides. Repeat three times on each side.
Other everyday activities like walking on sand or rolling a tennis ball under the foot can help strengthen muscles and alleviate pains.⁴ For targeted relief from muscle aches and pains—on the feet and the rest of the body—consider our Sigh of Relief™ warming pain relief cream, which works wonderfully in conjunction with a stretching regimen.
Flex your foot stretching results with us at @barefootscientist.