The next time you watch an exercise DVD, pay special attention to the time spent on stretching the feet and ankles. It’s likely that your favorite exercise guru completely ignores these areas of the body. This seems counterintuitive when you consider that your feet are bearing up to four times or more the body’s weight when you do jumping jacks. While the research varies on the benefits of stretching, one of the primary goals of this activity is injury prevention.
Note that the calves are also an important piece to the stretching puzzle and good foot health. These muscles are connected to the feet by the Achilles tendon, and they play a role in conditions such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.
Stretching not only aids in the prevention of injury, but it also helps during recovery. Whether you’ve experienced an ankle fracture or foot surgery, home exercises or physical therapy are often a part of the after-care plan. Restoring strength and flexibility to the affected area is the primary goal. Focused stretching also brings the body’s natural healing process to the area through increased blood flow.
Many people see stretching as the beginning of their workout routine, but it should really be phase two. First, take a quick walk, or even jog in place to get your body warmed up prior to completing your regimen of stretches. Remember that stretching should not cause pain. If you experience discomfort, you should pull back to a more comfortable point.
This process could take up a large period of time if every muscle of the body was addressed. Instead, break the body down into areas of focus, and spend more time on the muscles that you will use during your regular workout. To prevent tearing, keep the targeted muscle still during the stretch. It’s always best to speak with your doctor before beginning any type of exercise plan.
Drs. Brook and Northcutt prescribe stretching exercises for various conditions after an evaluation. However, there are some general stretching exercises that can benefit anyone.
Stretch the toes–While sitting, place your feet flat on the floor and move your toes apart. Hold and repeat. Next, grab a towel and lay it on the floor. Use your toes to gather it up, and then lift it. Finally, loop the towel around your toes and gently pull toward your body.
Work out arch pain—Spend ten to fifteen seconds walking on your toes and complete eight reps. Using a golf ball or tennis ball, give yourself a foot massage by rolling the item back and forth underneath your foot. For additional benefits, try a frozen water bottle.
Don’t avoid the ankles—Sit in your favorite chair and flex your feet slowly. After ten reps, point the toes and hold. Do this ten times as well. You can also stretch the ankles by going downward and inward and holding that position. Now, try going upward and outward.
Focus on the forgettable calves—The calves are often forgotten, but they are an important part of the overall health of your feet. Use a step for one of the most popular stretching exercises. Stand with your heels over the edge, and let the heels drop. Now, stand in front of a chair back with your feet apart. Rise up on one foot and lift the heel as far as possible. Lower and repeat ten times.
Foot and ankle pain can be a thing of the past with the right care. Foot and ankle stretching is just one way that you can strengthen your foundation and help in the prevention of injury. Drs. Joel Brook and David Northcutt are ready to serve you in our Dallas and Plano, TX offices. Call or schedule an appointment online.