It may be true -- wearing 5-inch heels makes a fashion statement, and getting around in flip-flops all day is just too comfortable to give up. But both activities can lead to foot problems. Over time and without proper foot support, the tiny intrinsic muscles in your feet can weaken. (The term "intrinsic" simply refers to muscles that begin and end within your foot.) This places more strain on the ligaments and joints of your feet, and as a result, injuries can develop, according to Dr. Lee Firestone, a sports medicine podiatrist. The good news – doing daily intrinsic exercises can help strengthen these tiny muscles, help you stay injury free and allow you to be stylish with comfort.
Tap your toes to help strengthen your foot muscles. You'll need to get rid of your shoes and socks for this exercise. Sit toward the front edge of a sturdy chair and put your feet flat on the floor. Begin with your right foot. Keep your heel on the floor and lift all of your toes off the floor. While keeping the outside four toes in the air, repeatedly tap your big toe to the floor. After 10 to 12 taps, rest and then repeat, but this time, tap the outside four toes while you hold your big toe in the air. Don't forget to tap the toes on your left foot.
Stay seated to perform arch lifts. With your shoes off, place your feet flat on the floor. Start with one foot. Without curling your toes, press them into the floor and pull the ball of your foot back toward your heel. It's as if you were trying to shorten your foot. Notice how your arch lifts. Hold the lift five seconds and then relax. Dr. Firestone recommends performing the exercise 10 times with each foot.
Scrunch up a towel with your toes. Texas podiatrist Dr. Marybeth Crane suggests that this exercise can help to strengthen the tiny muscles of your feet. Sit in your chair with the towel on the floor in front of the chair. Start with your right foot. Place your foot on the towel with your heel at the back edge of the towel. Keep your heel on the towel, reach forward with your toes and grab the towel. Curl and crunch your toes as you pull the towel back toward your heel. Release the hold, reach forward with your toes and repeat. Perform three sets of 10 and then do toe scrunches with your left foot. If you want a challenge, place a heavy book at the far end of the towel and perform the exercise.
Scatter several marbles on your towel. Place a small bowl off to the side of the towel. Practice picking up the marbles with your toes. Start with your right foot. Wrap your toes around one of the marbles, pick it up and place it in the bowl. Continue until you have picked up all of the marbles. Scatter them again on the towel and pick them up using your left foot.
- Washington Running Report: Sports Medicine -- Five Strengthening Exercises for the Foot and Ankle
- Columbia University Medical Center: Plantar Fasciitis
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis
- Foot and Ankle Associates of North Texas: Six Simple Exercises For Stronger Strides
- Warm up your foot muscles before exercising. While barefoot, take an easy, five-minute jog around your house.