Our 8 Favorites Exercises for Foot Pain and Flexibility
From being on your feet all day to shoes that don’t fit well to running injuries, sprains, and stubbed toes, there are numerous causes of foot pain. Fortunately, there are some excellent exercises for foot pain you can do regularly that can often help ease pain and possibly prevent injury.
What Type of Foot Injuries Occur?
You can have any number of foot injuries, but some of the more common ones include:
1. Strains, sprains, and fractures of the ankle, foot, and toes—these can be acute or stress fractures that need a doctor’s attention. These can also sometimes occur from simple overuse, so it’s important to monitor your pain and always allow for sufficient rest and stretching. Remember, everything is connected, so tight muscles and tendons can affect other areas of your anatomy.
2. Achilles tendonitis—this condition happens when the tendon that connects your calf muscle to your heel gets irritated. You can injure this tendon through simple overuse, insufficient warm-ups, calves that are too tight, or starting a new workout regimen too aggressively and not easing into your program.
3. Plantar fasciitis—the plantar fascia is a tendon that runs the length of your foot from the ball of your foot to your heel. It runs along the arch and can easily become inflamed. In fact, plantar fasciitis is a very common injury.
For mild foot, toe, and ankle pain, try resting your foot on an ice pack, giving your tired feet a chance to recover by propping them up on a pillow, and wearing good shoes with proper arch support. Then, work your way up to longer walks, runs, and stretching sessions.
Try These 8 Exercises for Foot Pain
1. Toe Stretches
Start by sitting and bring your right leg up and place your ankle on your knee. Starting with your big toe, gently pull it and bend it upward. Feel a good stretch under your toe and then bend it downward in the opposite direction until you feel a good stretch along the top. Release and move on to the next toe, doing the same procedure on each until you have stretched all five toes. Repeat the entire process for your left foot.
2. Plantar Fascia Rolls
Using a small ball or a tube (you can also use a foam roller), place the ball under the center of your foot and roll forward and back slowly from the balls of your feet to your heel. Roll it out on the regular, at least once a day, for optimal results.
Note: you can get a spikey ball designed specifically for foot massage if you’re ready to kick it up to the next level.
3. Ultimate Calf Stretches
Stand with your feet on an elevated surface where your heels can hang off the edge (something like a step). Hold onto something for balance and allow your heels to hang off the edge of the platform, feeling a good stretch through your ankles and calves. Next, get up on your tiptoes as you lift your body until your calves are fully contracted. Hold this position for a few seconds before returning to the start. Repeat.
4. Alphabet Toes
Start by sitting with your feet about hip-width apart. Lift your right leg, point your toes and use your right big toe to “draw” each letter of the alphabet in the air. Once finished, progress to the opposite side and repeat.
Note: you can also do this exercise while standing once you can balance easily on one leg.
5. Dual Purpose Stretch
This stretch works both the Achilles’ tendon and helps to stretch the plantar fascia. Sit on the ground with your legs out straight in front of you. Take a resistance band or a towel and wrap it around the middle of your feet, grabbing one end in each hand. Gently pull the top of your feet back toward you, getting in a good stretch of the bottom of your foot and the Achilles tendon. Hold for ten seconds and then release. Take a moment to fully point your feet and toes in the opposite direction before repeating the sequence.
6. Towel Toe Grabs
This is pretty much what it sounds like… stand with your feet about hip-width apart and place your right foot on a towel. Using only your toes, “grab” the towel until you can begin to lift it off the ground. Release and repeat. Do a set of five on the right side, and then switch to the left side and repeat.
7. Standing Toe Taps
Start by standing with your feet about hip-width apart and place your weight on your left foot. Lift the right leg and point your toes. Bring your leg across and tap your big toe in front of your left foot. Continue to lift your foot a few inches off the ground and touch your toe down every six inches, moving clockwise until you have gone as far as you can around toward the back of your body. Bring your right foot back to center and repeat with the left leg.
Note: you may want to hold on to a counter, wall, or chair to help you balance through this exercise.
8. Walking Barefoot on Sand
This sounds easy enough, but it’s actually quite taxing on the muscles in your foot, ankle, and leg. The constant uneven distribution of the sand forces your feet to move in new ways and adapt to different stressors as you walk. It is one of the great exercises for foot pain and flexibility.
You may also want to consider seeing a physical therapist for an evaluation of your foot pain. They can take a look at your arches, your gait, and your movement and help prescribe therapies that you can do at home, including stretches, icing, taping, shoe inserts, and more.