Fuel your foot strength this summer

Summertime is the time to bring out the sandals and go barefoot. It’s also time to heed the wisdom of the faculty and clinicians in the DMU Physical Therapy Clinic: Converting to footwear with less support (most sandals or flip flops), or no support at all (bare feet), can cause problems for your feet, especially if you suffer from or have a history of foot pain.

Work those appendages!
Work those appendages!

While footwear accommodations, including orthotics, are an important solution when you have foot pain, our physical therapy (PT) clinicians note that most literature supports that orthotics should be a short-term solution. The function of the healthy foot includes an ability to support itself. In fact, adolescents who grew up without wearing shoes have been shown to have a higher arch (and thus more support) than their peers who always wore shoes.

Typically, the arch of the foot drops and the foot muscles weaken as we get older. Exercising the foot can help to lessen this decline and improve the function of your foot and the structure of your arch so that you can do, and wear, all the things you want to. To assess how well your feet function is and improve the performance of your foot muscles, the easiest thing to do is to simply start using them. Use your feet to pick up things around the house, to move rugs, or simply flex the foot muscles throughout the day. The following exercises are a few ways to work on your foot muscles.

Short foot

To make the short foot, think about contracting your foot. 1) Bring the ball of the big toe and the ball of the little toe together. 2) Bring the ball of the big toe and the heel together. 3) Try to hold this for five seconds. Then repeat for five repetitions. Do three sets, two times per day, on a daily basis, especially before beginning physical activity.

Start in the sitting position until you learn how to control the foot and the associated muscles. Then you can progress to

  • standing with the short foot in front and weight on the back foot;
  • standing with feet together and equal weight on each foot;
  • standing on one foot.

Eventually you will be able to perform the short foot during things you commonly do – walking, standing in line, squatting, balancing on one leg, etc.

Toe dissociation
1) Pull your big toe up while you try to bend all of the smaller toes down. Try to move at the first joint of the toes. Hold for 10 seconds. 2) Push the big toe down while you try to pull all of the smaller toes up. Try to move at the first joint of the toes. Hold for 10 seconds.

Summertime is a good time to make sure you are giving your feet as much attention to stay healthy as you do the rest of your body. Strong, healthy feet are happy feet. Exercise yours daily.

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