How to strengthen your feet at home
We all rely on our feet to navigate our way through daily life. Yet for most, it's not until we experience those painful spells and annoying niggles that we are reminded of this, and suddenly our foot health takes a massive leap up the priority list.
Whether you're a high-performing athlete or a weekend walker, strengthening your intrinsic foot muscles can help manage and prevent many common foot conditions, reduce pain, and ultimately keep you on your feet doing the things you love.
So, what are intrinsic muscles, and what do they do? The muscles of the foot can be divided into two main groups, the extrinsic and intrinsic muscles. Our extrinsic muscles originate from the lower leg and insert into the foot, differing from our intrinsic muscles which are located solely (no pun intended) within the foot itself.
We can think about our extrinsic muscles being responsible for the BIG movements of the foot, such as our full range of motion and walking. Our intrinsic muscles complement these essential power movements in two ways. The first is through providing the foot with dynamic stability, including supporting the arches and maintaining foot structure. The second is to support the BIG actions of our extrinsic muscles while also producing fine movements of the toes.
Maintaining our intrinsic muscle strength provides our feet with the support, stability, and flexibility to perform the tasks we ask of them every day. It's an easy and effective way to optimize our foot function that can be practiced anywhere, at any time.
Below are a few exercises to try:
1. Towel Clawing:
Lay a tea towel on the ground.
While sitting, place one foot on the fabric (keeping knees and ankles at 90°).
Using all your toes, grab the material focusing on big, slow, clawing, then release slowly.
Repeat 10 times or until fatigue on each foot.
2. Toe splay:
Sitting with feet and ankles in a 90° position.
Spread all your toes apart as far as comfortable.
Hold for 5 counts.
Repeat until fatigued.
3. Toe raisers:
Either sitting or standing (sitting is easier), lift your big toe off the ground while keeping your other toes and heel grounded.
Avoid scrunching the toes while ensuring movement is slow and controlled (requires mental concentration!)
Repeat 10 times or until fatigue on each foot
Can also perform the opposite – raising toes 2-5 off the ground while keeping the big toe and heel grounded.
Repeat 10 times or until fatigued.
4. Short foot exercise/’doming’:
The goal is to shorten the foot by contracting the intrinsic muscles to raise the arch.
Sitting, form a 90° angle at your knees and ankles.
Without crunching your toes, bring the ball of your foot towards your heel.
Keep the foot in a neutral position, without extending or curling your toes.
Hold for 5 counts, then repeat.