For the past 10, 15, or 25 years, most people have “cast” their feet in a traditional shoe (stability, cushioning and motion control). During those “dormant years” your feet have had very few opportunities to move, bend, or stretch. In that time your foot muscles atrophied, joints became stiff and unstable. And your neural connections? Well, let’s just say that your feet aren’t the smartest or fittest parts of your body.
Why are Fit Feet so important? Well, your feet are engaged in just about every activity you do (except sitting and sleeping). Feet are your connection with the earth – they support you, keep you balanced and take you everywhere you want to go… so why shouldn’t your feet be as strong as your core?
You can re-train them (you have the technology)! It’s called Foot Fitness, and it can be practiced by anyone, anywhere; athletes who want to enhance their performance, fitness and yoga practitioners who want to be more balanced and proficient, and anyone who hopes to alleviate their foot pain. Foot fitness is increasing flexibility, strength, endurance and agility in your feet (just like you do for the rest of your body!)
Foot Fitness is more than “just being barefoot” around your house or during workouts; the exercises are intentional. The concept is to practice specific movement skills that will enhance the strength, flexibility and agility of the toes, foot and ankle.
Here are a few simple exercises that can strengthen and awaken the intrinsic muscles of your feet. Do them every day!
Keeping your feet about hip distance apart, lift all 10 toes as high as you can – and then spread them out wide. Hold this position 3 seconds, and relax your toes down. Repeat this exercise 10x. (flexibility, agility, endurance)
On your last Toe Fan, keep your toes lifted, then press your two Big Toes down to the floor. Tap (only) your Big Toes 10x. Then tap your Pinkie (littlest) Toe 10x. For your final challenge, press your Big Toe and Pinkie Toe to the floor while holding your 3 middle toes up. (flexibility, agility, endurance)
Lift your heel up high, creating a fold between your toes and your foot. Press into this deeply enough that you can feel the webbing between your toes stretch. Each time you lift up, hold for 3 seconds, and then relax a little. Repeat this 10x on each foot. (flexibility)
Begin with a Toe Fan. Then place all 10 elongated toes on the floor and grip the ground with your toes as if you were creating a suction cup feeling with them. (Instead of curling them under). As you suction cup, also visualize (connect) with your long arch and feel how it domes up, creating a strong and responsive long arch. Hold this position for 3 seconds and then release. Repeat 10x. (endurance, agility)
You will feel most comfortable practicing this on a carpet or a mat. Place the tops of your toes on the floor. Bend both knees, and feel the additional weight press into the top of your foot. (Be firm – but kind) Hold for 3 seconds, then straighten your legs. Repeat this exercise 10x on each foot. (flexibility, endurance) .
Stacey Lei Krauss is the creator of the barefoot fitness fusion program The willPower Method®; She has been specializing in Foot Fitness since 2000. Staceylei.com