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Ready to Get Back out on Those Hiking Trails?

It’s time to strengthen those feet

By Missi Balison

Strong, healthy feet are critical to a successful training program. Your feet and ankles make up your body’s foundation and act as “shock absorbers” when your body interacts with a surface.

The feet transmit weight from our body to the ground, allow us to balance in static posture, and propel our body forward, back and laterally in dynamic activities.

Many of the problems you see upstream (ankles, knees and hips) are very much related to the foot.

Hip, knee and ankle discomfort or pain often starts in foot dysfunction. Being barefoot allows you to increase balance, engage muscles, improve mobility, transfer stability from one side to the other, and offers efficient force transfer to the ground.

Try “toe yoga” to strengthen your feet and protect your feet, ankles, knees and hips from injury this summer.

Foot Exercises

You can perform foot exercises alone, as part of a warmup or in the stretch section of a workout. Inactive foot muscles may fatigue quickly, but daily exercise will build strength and endurance.

Toe spreading: Stand on a stable surface. Extend and simultaneously move your toes away from each other. Create as much space between the toes as possible. Repeat several times for each foot.

Marble pickup: Put a pile of marbles on the floor. Pick up each marble with your toes, creating a second pile. Repeat several times, each foot.

Toe yoga: Extend the big toe while toes two to five stay on the floor. Alternate, lifting and lowering toes two to five and then the big toe. Do each foot separately and then both feet together.

Beginning and end: Extend all your toes. Alternate pressing the big toe and fifth toe to the floor, keeping the ankle centered. Extend all toes and simultaneously press the big toe and fifth toe to the floor, keeping the middle toes lifted. Repeat for each foot.

Band work: Fasten a resistance band to a secure point, placing the other end of the band on the top or dorsal side of the foot, below your toes. Dorsiflex the foot (raise it up toward the shin) and then relax. Repeat several times, each foot.

Foot stretch: Kneel and tuck all toes under the buttocks. Press the toe pads into the floor. Place a blanket or cushion under the knees if you feel discomfort. Spend 20 to 30 seconds in this position and gradually work toward one minute.

Love on those little toesies today, and you’ll be ready to tackle those hiking trails in no time!

Missi Balison is a personal trainer, exercise physiologist and Certified Precision Nutrition coach.

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