The feet are responsible for a chain reaction throughout your entire body, according to double board-certified podiatrist Chanel J. Perkins, DPM. "The foot is known as a mobile adaptor. This simply means that the foot makes necessary adjustments to absorb shock and adapt to terrain," she says. (And in Traditional Chinese Medicine, a foot reflexology chart can act as a window into the entire body.)
- Chanel J. Perkins, DPM, double board-certified podiatrist
To keep you balanced as you go forward, the foot moves in two basic ways: supination (when the weight moves to the outer foot) and pronation (where the weight moves to the inner foot). Both patterns are key to foot mobility and range of motion. "Our lives are made easier by foot mobility because it literally gives us freedom of movement by making the act of walking biomechanically possible," explains Dr. Perkins. "We encounter several challenges if there is too little or too much mobility in the foot, so there must be a balance."
To keep your feet in tip-top shape, Dr. Perkins recommends working foot mobility exercises into your workout routine at least a couple days a week. However, if you're experiencing pain in your feet as we speak, it's a good idea to consult a podiatrist. You may need a pair of orthotic insoles instead of a simple mobility routine.
With that said, we're ready to mobilize the feet. (Then, onto new adventures.)
7 foot mobility exercises to add to your regular rotation
1. Tennis ball roll
Grab a tennis ball and sit down on a chair or the side of your bed. Place your bare foot on top of the ball and slowly roll your foot over it. You can use your body weight to increase pressure (as needed). "It would be a good idea to keep the ball at bedside so you can do this massage in the morning before getting out of bed and at night before going to sleep," says Dr. Perkins.
2. Tower curls
Place a small towel on the floor and curl it toward you using only your toes. If this feels easy, you can increase the resistance by putting a weight (like a heavy book) on the end of the towel. "The movement should be as if you are almost picking up the towel with your toes," says Dr. Perkins. "Relax and repeat this exercise five times."
3. Marble pick up
Here's a fun one: Place 20 marbles on the floor, and pick them up—one at a time—using only your toes and place each one into a small bowl. Do this exercise until you have picked up all 20 marbles.
4. Heel raise
Rise up on your toes and hold this position for five seconds. Repeat 10 times.
5. Calf stretch against the wall
Place your palms against a wall, with one leg forward and one leg back. Bend the front leg just a bit, while keeping the back leg completely straight. Continue to lean into the wall until you feel the stretch in the back of your calf. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds, then switch legs.
6. Negative calf raises
Stand on a step with your heels off the edge, parallel to the floor below. Lift one leg up off the step, and slowly drop the other heel below the step. Try to take at least 10 seconds to lower it all the way down. Repeat twice with each foot.
7. Ankle range of motion exercise
Start standing. Pull your foot up like you are trying to bring your toes to your shin. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat three times with each foot. You can also use a resistance band or a towel wrapped around the ball of the foot and pull up on it with your hands while you push your foot down, pointing your toes toward the floor.
Keep stretching with Nike trainer Traci Copeland:
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