By Miguel J. Ortiz
From the time we start crawling to our very first steps our body and brain are working overtime to create neurological pathways that will ultimately be the building blocks of movement. We commonly know this as “muscle memory.” The more we practice these movements consistently the better we get.
However, as we age the activities and movements we did as a child – crawling, climbing trees, playing tag or more athletic sports – tend to go away. When these movements aren’t practiced as often the rest of the body is affected. And it all starts with your feet. Regardless of the activity, your feet consistently hit the ground. The feet start to adapt and change to a more comfortable lifestyle. When the feet start to change, it affects every joint on the way up.
So, no matter your level of activity taking better care of your feet will have you walking better and could relieve quite a bit of pain in your knees, hips and lower back. So, here are three quick daily exercises and stretches you can do to start improving the mobility in your feet.
Keep in mind these exercises can (and in my opinion should be) done daily by everyone. The intensity of work may vary from person to person, but these three basic movements can help tremendously.
Our first movement starts in a seated position with either a tennis ball, lacrosse ball or golf ball, going from easiest to hardest. Simple place the ball under your foot and lightly massage back and forth slowly for about 1 minute. While rolling, pay attention to any spots that are tighter than others. After the first minute, pick one tight spot and hold that for 30 seconds. Repeat this in three different spots of each foot, for about 5-7 minutes a foot at minimum. By the way, if you have a desk job there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to massage your feet and work at the same time.
Second is a stretch done seated or lying down. It is a towel foot/calf stretch. Place a towel or band around the bottom of your foot, using your arms grab the towel or band and pull toward you, at the same time try to point your toes toward your face which assist in stretching the calf and bottom of your feet. Hold the stretch for 2 seconds then release while keeping light tension on the band or towel, repeat for three sets of 10 reps each.
The third exercise involves some stretching but with more activation to strengthen the bottom of the feet. In a seated position place a towel in front of you rolled out on the floor. Start by placing one foot on the towel. Begin the movement by opening up your toes and foot in order to curl the towel toward you. Try not to move your foot too much so that the focus can be on the balls of your feet and your toes doing more of the curling of the towel versus the bottom half of your leg. The full length of the towel is one set. Perform five sets per side daily.
Have fun getting your feet back to a more mobile state in order to stay ready to tackle the day.