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9 Foot Exercises to Try at Home

Why foot exercises matter

Keeping your feet strong and flexible can help reduce foot and ankle pain, reduce muscle soreness, improve your overall foot health, and keep you active.

Exercises that improve range of motion and help limber up your feet may reduce your chance of getting hurt. Slow and gentle stretches will improve your flexibility. Strength exercises will allow your muscles to provide better support and protection for your foot as a whole.

You can do these gentle stretching and strengthening exercises three days per week or as often as every day to increase your range of motion and strength for lifelong foot health and vitality.

If your feet and ankles ache a lot, if you have any injuries, or if you have arthritis or diabetes, be sure to check with your doctor or physical therapist before you start doing any of these exercises. Depending on your needs, your doctor may add other exercises or take away some of the ones listed here.

TOE RAISE, POINT, AND CURL

1. Toe raise, point, and curl

toe raise

This three-part exercise will start to get your toes and feet moving.

  1. Sit in a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Keep your toes flat on the ground and raise your heels until only the balls of your feet and toes touch the ground. Hold for five seconds.
  3. Point your toes so that only the ends of your big and second toes touch the ground. Hold for five seconds.
  4. Keep your heel off the ground and roll your toes under so that that tops of your toes touch the ground. Hold for five seconds.
  5. Repeat each position 10 times.

TOE SPLAY

2. Toe splay

toe splay

This movement will help you gain control over your toe muscles.

  1. Sit in a straight-backed chair with your feet gently resting on the floor.
  2. Spread all your toes apart as far as comfortable. Hold for five seconds.
  3. Repeat 10 times.

You can make this exercise harder by looping a rubber band around the toes of each foot.

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TOE EXTENSION

3. Toe extension

toe extension

This stretch is good to prevent or treat plantar fasciitis, which causes heel pain.

  1. Sit in a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Pick one foot up and place it on your opposite thigh.
  3. Grab your toes with one hand and pull them up toward your ankle until you feel a stretch along the bottom of your foot and in your heel cord.
  4. Massage the arch of your foot with your other hand during the stretch. Hold for 10 seconds.
  5. Repeat 10 times on each foot.

TOE CURLS

4. Toe curls

toe curls

This exercise will strengthen the muscles on the top of your feet and toes.

  1. Sit in a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lay a kitchen towel or hand towel on the floor in front of you so the short end is at your feet.
  3. Put the toes of one foot on the end of the towel, and scrunch your toes so you pull the towel toward you.
  4. Repeat five times with each foot.

You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by placing a small weight (like a can of soup) on the far end of the towel.

MARBLE PICKUP

5. Marble pickup

marble pickup

This exercise will strengthen the muscles on the bottom of your feet and toes.

  1. Sit in a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place 20 marbles and a small bowl on the floor in front of you.
  3. Pick up one marble at a time with your toes and place it in the bowl. Use one foot to pick up all 20 marbles.
  4. Repeat with the other foot.
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BIG-TOE STRETCH

6. Big-toe stretch

big toe stretch

Keep good range of motion in your big toe with this three-part stretch. It feels good after having your feet crammed in dress shoes all day.

  1. Sit in a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Pick one foot up and place it on your opposite thigh.
  3. Gently use your fingers to stretch your big toe up, down, and to the side away from the other toes. Hold the stretch in each direction for five seconds.
  4. Repeat 10 times in each direction.
  5. Repeat with the opposite foot.

GOLF BALL ROLL

7. Golf ball roll

golf ball roll

Rolling the bottom of your foot on a hard ball can ease arch pain and treat plantar fasciitis.

  1. Sit in a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place a golf ball on the floor near your feet.
  3. Put your foot on top of the golf ball and roll it around, massaging the bottom of your foot.
  4. Increase or decrease pressure as needed.
  5. Roll for two minutes on each foot.

You can also use a frozen bottle of water if you don’t have any golf balls handy.

ACHILLES STRETCH

8. Achilles stretch

achilles stretch

The cord that runs up your heel into your calf muscles is called the Achilles tendon. Keeping it flexible can prevent foot, ankle, and leg pain.

  1. Stand facing a wall, with arms outstretched and palms on the wall.
  2. Place one foot back behind you with knee straight, and bend the knee on your other leg.
  3. Adjust your stance so that both heels are flat on the floor.
  4. Lean forward from the hips until you feel a stretch in your Achilles tendon and calf muscle.
  5. Adjust your stance if necessary to feel the pull while keeping your heels on the floor.
  6. To feel the stretch in a different place, bend the back knee slightly and push your hips forward.
  7. Hold the stretches for 30 seconds each and repeat three times.
  8. Switch legs and repeat.
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SAND WALKING

9. Sand walking

sand walking

Walking barefoot through sand strengthens and stretches your feet and toes and gives a great calf workout. Walking in sand is more tiring than walking on hard paths, so make sure you turn around before you’ve worn yourself out.

  1. Find some sand — for example, at a beach, desert, or volleyball court.
  2. Take off your shoes and socks.
  3. Walk.

TAKEAWAY

The bottom line

If you do these foot stretches and strengthening exercises regularly, your feet will thank you. The stiffness and aches will subside. The exercises can relieve your heel and arch pain, and even prevent hammertoes and stop toe cramps.

Before you start doing your foot exercises, warm up a little bit. Walk around the house for a few minutes or ride a stationary bike. You just want to get some blood flowing before you stretch your tendons, ligaments, and muscles.

These exercises and stretches shouldn’t be painful. Be gentle with yourself. You could be pressing too hard on the golf ball or stretching too far. Ease up a bit.

If it still hurts, stop the exercise and talk to your doctor or physical therapist about how to proceed. If any of the instructions aren’t clear or if they don’t seem to be helping your problem, call your doctor for some guidance.

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