Just like every other part of our body, our feet benefit from daily exercise and stretching. Stretching is especially important for those with diabetes, since it reduces pressure on the big toe and ball of the foot. These areas are very common for ulcers. Stretching is also important for those who suffer from heel pain and pain in the ball of the foot. Stretching can also increase blood flow which is beneficial for those who suffer from neuropathy and bad circulation.
So what kind of stretches and exercises can you do to improve your foot health? Here are some suggestions:
1. Calf Stretches: Place your hands flat against the wall and walk your feet back until your body is at a 45 degree angle or until you start to feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Slightly bend one knee and bring it in towards the wall. Keep your other foot flat on the floor. Make sure to keep your body in a straight line, holding your buttocks in, and keeping your back straight (no arching). Hold for at least 10 seconds without bouncing and then switch legs. Repeat 5-10 times on each leg.
2. Towel Stretch: Sit on the floor (you may want to put a mat down if you are on a hard surface) with both legs straight out in front of you. Make sure your legs are together and keep them as straight as possible. Take a towel and wrap it around your toes, then pull the ends of the towel toward you. Do this slowly, and once you feel a good stretch hold for 10 seconds then release. Repeat 5 times, each time trying to stretch a little farther.
3. Stair Stretch: Using a stair or some sort of elevated object, place your toes on the edge of the stair. Drop your heels towards the ground slowly (you may want to use a wall or chair for balance). Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times. This is a great stretch for those with plantar fasciitis.
4. Toe Stretch: Sit in a chair with your back straight and shoulders back. Place your feet flat on the ground, shoulder width apart. Next, simply spread your toes apart, holding for a few seconds, and bring them back in. Repeat 5-10 times.
5. Foot Roll: Place a golf ball or tennis ball on the ground and roll it under your foot, moving it back and forth from your toes to your heel. Try freezing the tennis ball or using a frozen water bottle.
1. Toe Grip: Place a sock on the floor and use your toes to pick it up. Hold for 10 seconds and then release. Repeat this 10 times on each foot. This exercise will help strengthen the foot as well as improve balance.
2. Calf Raises: Using a wall or chair for balance, stand up straight and slowly raise your heels off the floor. Hold for 10 seconds, and then lower them back down slowly. Start with one set of 10, and increase to 3 sets of ten as your muscles get stronger.
3. Toe Squeeze: Place small corks, or a similar object, between all of your toes. Squeeze for 5 seconds, and then release. Repeat 10 times. This is a great exercise for those with hammertoes, or toe cramping.
4. Marble Pick Up: Place several marbles on the floor along with a cup. Using your toes, pick up one marble at a time and place them in the cup. This is also a good exercise for those with hammertoes and toe cramping, as well as those with pain in the ball of their foot.
5. Toe Extension: Wrap a rubber band around all 5 toes (do this on both feet). Spread your toes and hold for 5 seconds. Relax, and then repeat 5-10 times.
Doing these simple stretches and exercises once or twice a day may help relieve foot pain, help relax tired feet, and increase strength in the foot and ankle muscles which in turn can help reduce the risk of injury and pain.
If you need more help with foot exercising and stretching look no further than the office of Dr. Evan Merrill. At Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle, we understand your foot health needs. Make an appointment by calling 541-776-3338, or request an appointment online.