There are a lot of variables that go into having good posture. Keeping your shoulders back, your spine in its proper curve, and your pelvis straight (and not tilted) are key to keeping yourself upright, rather than hunched over. Lesser known, however, is that a foundational element of having good posture is all about your feet.
“Imagine that your feet are the trunk of your tree,” says Carey Macaleer, founder of A-line Pilates. “If you’re not working equally throughout your feet, it will offset the alignment for the rest of your body, which could cause issues,” she says. Think: knees knocking inward or hips splaying outward. And that’s exactly why adjustments to foot posture when working out are so important. The key is to make sure that your weight is being evenly distributed between your toes, and that as much as is possible barring pronation, your ankles are getting even distribution on the inner and outer edges of your feet.
“If you’re not working equally throughout your feet, it will offset the alignment for the rest of your body.” —Carey Macaleer
According to Macaleer, this can allow you to activate other muscles throughout the body that might not be getting properly worked. “If you can push down into your pinky toe, that could help you connect with your pelvic floor,” says Macaleer. “If you have a hard time connecting to that, that affects the back chain of your body, into the lower glutes.” It’s not a one-sided relationship either: Strengthening certain parts of the body can also help your foot posture. For example, according to her, having increased inner thigh and glute strength can help alleviate pronation for better foot (and overall) posture.
To improve yours, keep scrolling for five different exercises that Macaleer recommends to her clients—all of which stretch and strengthen the muscles of the foot that don’t normally get activated during the day.
Foot posture exercises
1. Move through the entire foot: Macaleer recommends going through your foot’s ranges of motion to help with alignment. Start by flexing your foot at the ankle, not the toe—try to relax the toes. Curl your toes (think: like a bird on a wire) while still keeping flexion, then point the foot fully until you feel a stretch in the front of your foot. Curl only your toes back, and finish by pushing through your heel and going back to full flexion. Do 10 reps of this motion on each foot.
2. Use a block: Work through this exercise for the calf, Achilles heel, and foot (it’ll also bring some glorious plantar fasciitis relief, according to her). Begin by standing on a yoga block or stairs. Have your heels hang off the block, and flex again at the ankle. Lift up the inside part of the foot by putting more weight into the outside of your foot. Feel the stretch going from the middle of the foot to the ankle and up the calves.
3. Towel stretch: Try to grab a towel off of the floor by curling your toes, and then release. Notice which toes can grab fully the towel and which toes are slightly weaker, which you can then focus on strengthening. Macaleer says to do this 10 times.
4. Sitting and rolling stretch: Sit down with your legs straight out in front. Rotate your foot inwards and outwards, trying not to move the leg while keeping flexion in the toes.
5. Standing foot activation: Standing shoulder-width apart, press into the big toe, then the toe next to the big toe, working your way to the pinky toe. Then reverse from pinky toes to the big toes. Notice if one of the toes is not able to push down. When you’re finished, you’ll feel that more of the foot is connected to the ground.
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