Self-care for your soles: stretching and massaging the feet

The dog days of summer are upon us, and for many of us that means our dogs are barking. Whether it’s long training runs or just running around town in flip-flops, summer activities can be hard on our feet. Feet are important - if your body was a house, the feet would be the foundation. Stiffness and pain in the feet can affect your stride, your posture, and even the long-term health of your knees and hips. Despite their importance, feet are all-too-often overlooked when it comes to our stretching and self-care routines. In this blog post, I will cover a number of ways to care for and protect our hard-working feet.

My foot care routine consists of three easy elements:

1.     Stretching the soles and tops of the feet

2.     Stretching the toes and mobilizing the ankles

3.     Rolling out the arches of the feet

 

Stretching the soles of the feet

This exercise calls for you to start on your hands and knees. Pad the knees with a folded blanket or towel, or do this exercise on a soft carpet.

Tuck your toes under so that the soles of your feet are pointed at the wall behind you.

Slowly and carefully sit back onto your heels, keeping the toes tucked. You should feel an intense stretch on the soles of the feet, and you may not be able to sit all the way up at first.

Take three deep breaths in this position, and then gently come back down onto hands and knees. Un-tuck your feet so that the tops of your feet are resting on the ground, and then sit up. This provides a stretch to the tops of the feet.

I recommend this stretch before and after a run, or just at the end of your day. It’s especially effective for anyone with plantar fasciitis and can be helpful as well for those with Achilles tendonitis or tight calves.

 

Stretching the toes and mobilizing the ankles

For this stretch, sit in a chair or on the floor with one foot crossed over the opposite knee. If you are sitting on the floor, you may want to sit on a folded blanket or towel to raise your seat up off the floor and protect your back.

Flex and spread the toes on your crossed-over foot, and then weave the fingers of your opposite hand in between your toes. This may feel like a stretch at first, especially if you wear close-toed shoes or heels regularly. Be patient and gentle, and only go as far as feels comfortable!

Use the hand that is grasping the foot to move the foot in circles at the ankle.Do five circles in one direction, and then reverse directions and do five more. You can give yourself a small massage while your hand is on your foot - I like to gently squeeze the toes, and to give some pressure to the spot on the inner arch of my foot.

Switch sides, and then you’re done! This stretch is super easy, but keeping the toes flexible and the ankles mobile is crucial for foot health and our overall stride and posture.

 

Rolling out the arches of the feet

Did you know that you can roll out your feet, the same way you might use a foam roller on your quads and back? All you need is a tool of the right size to fit your feet - some people use a tennis ball, a lacrosse ball, a special foot roller, or even a frozen water bottle! The frozen water bottle feels especially delicious after a long, hot run, and the cold helps to reduce swelling and pain.

So, there you have it! Three simple, easy practices to help you take care of the foundation of your body. You’re all set for a long walk on the beach (or your next half marathon)!

 

References

  1. http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/must-do-foot-stretch-after-every-single-run
  2. http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/sport-injuries/foot-heel-pain/plantar-fasciitis/stretching-exercises-plantar-fasciitis
  3. http://www.ipfh.org/foot-care-essentials/why-preventive-foot-health-is-important

This article/video is for educational purposes only; do not attempt without your physician’s clearance. If you are in pain or injured, see your physician.