Summertime is the time to bring out the sandals and go barefoot. For many with foot pain or a history of foot pain, this may also bring about some anxiety about converting to footwear with less support (most sandals or flip flops) or……no support at all (bare feet)! While footwear accommodations, including orthotics, are an important solution when you have foot pain, it is also important to remember 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. Summertime is a good time to find your feet again and to start thinking about making sure you are giving your feet as much attention to stay healthy as you do the rest of your body. It is time to stop hiding them inside your shoes and ignoring them only giving them attention when they hurt.
There are a few things you can do 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:
To make the short foot,
- Bring the ball of the big toe and the ball of the little toe together
- Bring the ball of the big toe and the heel together
- Try to hold this for 5 seconds, and repeat for 5 repetitions. Do 3 sets, 2 times per day.on a daily basis, especially before beginning physical activity. Ideally, everyone should regularly perform three types of exercises to prevent injury to all parts of the body, including the knees:
Start in the sitting position until you learn how to control the foot and the associated muscles. Then you can progress this 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, squatting, balancing on one leg, etc.
- Pull the 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, then
- 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.