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4 Ways To Build Strength in Feet and Ankles

Our feet and ankles are extremely important, considering they support the rest of our body. Unfortunately, most people ignore their feet and ankles until a problem arises. This neglect can ultimately lead to stiffness, weakness, and pain. Discover 4 simple means to lessen the chances of injury and keep this essential part of your body strong and flexible.

Before starting any of the following foot and ankle exercises, make sure to warm up with some light activity like walking. These exercises can help prevent injury and should only be used for treating injury if prescribed by a doctor or physical therapist.

These exercises can be done at home, added to your gym routine, or performed under your desk at work.

1. Passive Heel Cord Stretch

This stretching exercise can be done anywhere you have a wall and works the calf, including the gastrocnemius muscle that supports and flexes the ankle.

To perform this stretch, stand facing a wall with one leg forward with a slightly bent knee. Your other leg should be straight, and behind you, heel flat to the ground and toes pointed in slightly.

Keeping both heels flat on the floor and your back straight, press your hips forward toward the wall. Hold for 30 seconds, relax for 30 seconds, repeat, then switch legs. Repeat three times for each leg.

2. Ankle Range of Motion Exercises

These exercises improve ankle stability. This range of motion exercise works the dorsiflexors and plantar flexors (the muscles that move and flex your foot). Keeping these muscles strong keeps your ankle stable.

To do this exercise, sit down so that your feet aren’t touching the floor. Leading with your big toe, use your foot to write each letter of the alphabet in the air.

Be sure to keep the movements small; you only want to use your foot and ankle.

3. Tennis Ball Roll Under Foot

The tennis ball roll is one of the easiest foot exercises for plantar fasciitis or other arch of foot pain. All this exercise needs is a tennis ball and a place to sit.

To perform this exercise, sit on a chair with both feet on the floor. Place the bottom of the outside of the foot on the tennis ball and slowly roll it back and forth several times. Then place the bottom of the inside of the foot on the tennis ball and slowly roll it back and forth. If you have inflammation, you can freeze the tennis ball before performing this exercise.

If you have any particularly sensitive spots, hold the ball there, applying gentle pressure, for 15-20 seconds.

Do this for about two minutes per foot.

You can substitute a racket ball or a frozen water bottle if you don't have a tennis ball.

Please note if you have any health concerns, such as diabetes or circulatory issues, or you are pregnant, talk to your physician before rolling your feet.

4. Marble Pick-Up and Towel Curl

These exercises combined stretch the top and bottom of your feet and toes. They are also good foot exercises for arthritis.

Sit in a chair and place 20 marbles on the floor in front of you. Pick them up one at a time using only your toes and place them into a bowl. Then, place the marbles back on the floor and pick them up with the other foot.

For the towel curls, sit in a chair with a towel on the floor in front of you. Place one foot flat on the towel, then curl the toes to pull the towel toward you. Relax, then perform 5 repetitions. Switch feet and start over.

You can make the towel curls more challenging by placing a weight (such as a soup can) on the end of the towel.

If you regularly do these foot stretches and strengthening exercises, your feet will thank you. Stiffness and aches will subside.

If you are experiencing foot or ankle problems, please call (973) 365-2208. While online, request your appointment at our Clifton, NJ office today!

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