How to Mobilize and Strengthen Your Feet

Pop quiz! What muscles do you use every day but likely fail to take care of on a regular basis?

Your feet! Those things at the bottom of your legs that help get you from point A to B and back again. And boy do they ache sometimes!

Well, do you ever show them some love? I’ll show you the way!

Let’s start with stretching and mobilizing. Whether you use a lacrosse ball, a PVC pipe, or wooden dowel, let’s make sure you do a few things.

  1. Just like foam rolling, slow and steady wins the race. Take your time to ensure you are actually working on actively releasing muscle tension. Quickly rolling your foot backward and forwards isn’t going to do much of anything.
  2. Get up in the arch. I know some of us have flatter feet than others, but we all still have muscles that are on the “outsides” of our feet. Roll over to those sides as well!
  3. If your foot is aching, it may be another body part that is tight. Calves are going to play a role in how your feet feel. Use that PVC pipe/wooden dowel on those as well. Kneel on the floor, shins flat on the ground, and set it in-between the calves and hamstrings (knee pit) and sit back. Feel it? Then rock side-to-side, slowly. Spend a bit of time in one spot before leaning forward and moving the pipe/dowel down the calves in small increments.

Now, maybe your feet are hurting because they aren’t quite strong enough to handle everything you put in front of them. Accessory work people!

  1. Strengthen your arches. You can do this sitting, standing, at your desk, in front of the TV, etc. Take your shoes off. Lay your foot flat on the ground, pointing your toes straight out in front of you. Pull your toes inward, keeping the bottoms of them touching the floor. Hold them in this exaggerated arch position for a second or two and then return your toes to their original positions the same way. Similar to glute bridges, you may not feel it on the first or fifth one, but if you keep moving, and holding, it starts to fire up. Do this on one foot at a time and in small bouts to start.
  2. Strengthen your calves. You’ll need to stand for these. I love traditional calf raises off of the floor and then progressing into calf raises off a curb/step/deficit. It gets them warm and you actually move in that pattern.
  3. How about drills to strengthen arches and calves at the same time? Two words: balance drills. Remove your shoes again and start the drills on the bare floor. Stand on one foot at a time, trying to stand solely on one foot, without falling for one minute. When you’ve mastered that, close your eyes. This is a whole new game. We can also introduce a foam pad or squishy surface to stand on, once we’ve mastered the drill on flat ground.

Whether your feet are currently hurting or not, all of the above tips and drills are great additions to any self-care routine. So next time you’re stretching or working on sore muscles don’t forget to show those feet some love!