Stretching is one of the key preventative tips we recommend to runners. Your feet and ankles act as the buffer between you, the road, and the trail, and it’s critical to support them as much as you can to alleviate foot and ankle pain. Make sure they’re ready to bear the brunt. See the suggested strengthening and stretching exercises below (thanks to Certified Athletic Trainer and Certified Physician Assistant, Matt Schneider!).
Running is quite a high-impact sport, but it’s also one of the most exhilarating. You’ve heard of the “runners high,” an endorphin rush, or the sense of personal accomplishment. But it takes patience and training to reach this level of success. No doubt, you can get there! Just be careful how you push yourself, and always listen to your body first.
No matter what sport you’re in, you have to stretch and warm-up your muscles for the work ahead. Otherwise, you will overexert and injure yourself. Here are exercises to prepare your feet and legs for the open trail or road.
• Negative Calf Raises You will certainly recognize this exercise if you’ve hit the weights at your gym! But instead of using a machine, go to some nearby stairs, place your feet so that only the ball of the foot to the toes are on a stair, and raise your body up and down. Here’s a great video, showing you exactly how this should look and function. Try a set of 3 with 10 repetitions each.
• The Drunk Flamingo This exercise focuses on balance. Strange as it may seem, but it takes incredible strength to be able to balance well! (You should be impressed with your yogi friends. Those arm balance poses are no joke!)
For the Drunk Flamingo, find some stable ground and lift one leg so that you can balance on the other. Switch between each leg until you’ve mastered this move. Enhance your progress by closing your eyes while you balance.
Here are some more balancing exercises if you want to take this further!
• The Monopoly Game With this one, get ready to strengthen your toes. Grab 10 mini items, like marbles or legos, and a small cup. Using your toes, pick each small item up with the goal of placing all of them over time in the cup. Repeat this 10 times on each foot.
• Plantar Fascia Stretch The plantar fascia connects the heel bone to your toes. It’s the thick band of tissue that most easily becomes inflamed for runners. We call this condition “plantar fasciitis.” By stretching it regularly (and paying attention to pain in this area), you can set yourself up for success as you train.
Here’s how to do the Plantar Fascia Stretch: Sit in a chair with no shoes or socks. Bring your right leg over your left one so that the right leg is resting on top of the left. Hold your toes and stretch them back toward your shin. Stay in the stretch for as long as you would like, and be sure to repeat on your left foot.
• Toe Tug You can do this while wearing your shoes! Get a stretchy exercise band and loop it around the leg of a table or chair. (Ensure that you coil the other end of the band around the top of your feet.)
You should station the exercise band right in front of you and feel a slight pull when you point your feet away. When you’re ready, pull your feet toward yourself, and hold this position for as long as you can while keeping your legs straight. Complete 2 sets of 20 repetitions on each leg.
• Bent-Knee Wall Stretch This exercise is perfect for working the soleus, which connects the calf muscle to your Achilles tendon and is responsible for managing the impact on your ankle joint.
Find a wall. Place your palms against it, with one leg forward and one leg behind you. Lower into a seated position (as in a squat) so that you bend your knees. While in this place, lean into the wall until you experience a stretch in the back of your calf muscle. Hold this pose for 30 – 45 seconds, and then switch to the other leg. If you’d like a great visual representation, check out this video.
Yoga is also an incredible physical activity to do on your rest days. By stretching your body in this way, you can help initiate muscle growth and strength. Learn how yoga can help your feet, too!
Let us know what you think! And if you’re in pain, we’re ready to help.