We stretch every other part of our bodies, but we often forget one of the most important: our feet! Stretching can help keep your feet fit. Don't forget that many conditions in other parts of your body, like back pain, leg pain, and neck pain, can be traced to pain in your feet. Everything is attached, so when you have pain in your leg, your foot doesn't want to move either.
Here are some simple stretches you can do to help keep your feet flexible and fit:
- Lunges. From a standing position, with your feet together and toes pointing forward, lunge forward with your right foot. Keep your knees bent and your chest up as you lunge. Be sure your right heel strikes the floor before the rest of the foot. And be sure that you keep your right knee aligned above your right ankle; do not bend your right knee so far that it extends forward beyond the ankle. Return to the normal standing position. Repeat 11 more times, then lunge 12 times with the left foot. To increase the intensity of this stretch, do lunges onto a small platform or step.
- Tendon Stretch. Stand with both foot on a step or phone book, with your heels extending beyond the edge of the step. You may want to hold onto something to keep your balance as you shift your weight toward your heels and gently stretch the muscles and tendons in the back of your lower leg.
- Towel Lift. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your left knee and put your left foot flat on the floor. Place a towel around your right ankle. Grasping the ends of the towel, use it to pull your right leg up. Keep your right leg straight and keep your buttocks on the floor as you do so. Hold the stretch for several seconds, then lower your leg to the floor. Repeat with the left leg.
- "V" Stretch. Sit on the floor and place your legs out in front of you in a "v" shape. Turn your torso to the right and place your hands on the floor- one hand on either side of your right thigh. Roll your left hip and your left toes inward, so that the inside of your left foot is rest on the floor and the toes of your left foot are pointing toward your right leg. You should feel a stretch in the inner side of your left thigh. Release the stretch, then repeat the exercise in the opposite direction, with your hands next to your left thigh and your torso turned to the left.
- Knee Hug. Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Cross your right leg over your left, with your right knee bent. Hug your right knee to your chest. After putting your right leg back on the floor, cross your left leg over and repeat the hug.
- Quad Stretch. Stand behind a chair with your left hand on the back of the chair to help you maintain your balance. Bend your right knee, raise your right leg behind you, and grasp the right foot with your right hand. Gently pull upward on the foot until it reaches the buttocks. Hold it there for several seconds. You should feel a stretch in the large muscle at the front of your thigh. (Do not arch your back as you do this exercise.) Place your right foot back on the floor and repeat the stretch with the left foot.
- Crouch. Stand in front of a stable chair and hold your arms straight out in front of you (parallel to the floor). Gradually begin to sit down- but stop before your buttocks touch the chair. Your weight should be on your heels; your arms should help you maintain your balance. Stand up again slowly and repeat. Rest, then do another two sets.
- Towel Scrunch. Sit on a chair and place your bare feet on the floor. Pretend you have a towel under your toes; draw the towel in towards your heels by scrunching your toes. Then reverse the exercise by using your toes to push the imaginary towels out and away from the heel. Do this ten times with each foot.
- Towel Scoop. Sit on a chair and place your bare feet on the floor. Use the outer part of your foot to scoop the imaginary towel in toward your arches. Then use the inner part of your foot to smooth the towel back out. Do this ten times with each foot.