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7 Exercises to Strengthen the Feet for Optimal Stability

Our feet are the powerhouse of our movement, and yet, they are one of the most neglected parts of the body when it comes to care. Incorporating a routine that includes exercises to strengthen the feet will result in increased athletic performance and reduced injuries.

We ask a lot of our feet and often don’t give them the attention they deserve, which leads to injuries, imbalances, and foot deformities.

The great thing about foot exercises is that they can be done pretty much any time of the day, anywhere: While you’re brushing your teeth, in the shower, sitting or standing at your desk, while watching TV. 

Just a few minutes of strength work each day is all it takes to build stronger feet and improve performance.

Why You Need to Incorporate Exercises to Strengthen Feet

We’ve learned that we can purchase shoes that fit with our unique foot movement. A foot movement analysis will determine whether we supinate or pronate.

Depending on the movement the sales assistant will recommend shoes based on the results.

Shoes designed to work with supination or pronation, however, don’t actually correct the problem. They reinforce it.

Foot strengthening exercises will not only correct the problem created by wearing conventional shoes that deform our feet, but will also build a stronger stability system and enhance performance in running and hiking endeavors.

Weak foot muscles can result in a number of injuries and problems, such as:

Strong feet are stable feet and won’t over pronate or supinate, which means more efficient movement and fewer injuries!

Foot Anatomy

The foot is divided into two different muscle groups: Intrinsic and global muscles.

Intrinsic foot muscles, also known as the plantar arch muscles, are responsible for shock absorption and maintaining the foot arch. These muscles originate at the heel bone and attach to the toes. 

The global foot muscles are a larger set of muscles that are responsible for ankle movement and toe flexion and extension.

Intrinsic Foot Exercises

The intrinsic foot muscles control the motion of the foot, which most of us know as supination and pronation, and also support the arch. 

Think of them as the foot’s core. A weak core destabilizes the rest of the body, and the intrinsic foot muscles are no different.

Incorporating intrinsic foot exercises daily will maintain balance and stability and help reduce the number of foot problems and injuries.

As you begin to implement foot exercises, it’s important to also realign your toes to their natural position. Using toe spacers, like Correct Toes and wearing minimalist shoes are the steps required to reshaping your foot.

Failure to realign your foot while performing intrinsic foot exercises will only strengthen the existing misalignment in the feet.

Toe Lift Exercise

You can either sit or stand for this one. 

With your bare feet flat on the ground, start by lifting your big toe, while the remaining four stay in place on the floor. 

Next, lift your four toes while keeping your big toe on the ground.

Repeat for 2-3 rounds of 10 repetitions.

Marble Pick Ups

Sit or stand with your bare feet flat on the ground.

Place 10-20 marbles onto a towel (to prevent them from rolling around on wood floors, if you have a carpet, then no towel needed) and an empty bowl to one side.

Using just the toes of one foot, pick up the marbles one-by-one and place them into the bowl.

Repeat with the other foot.

Towel Scrunch

Sit or stand with your bare feet flat on the ground.

Place a hand towel vertically in front of one foot.

Use the toes to scrunch it up until you reach the end. Repeat with the other foot.

To make the exercise more challenging, you can add some weight to the far end of the towel.

You can also do this with a small ball, your accelerator or brake in the car, or any number of objects.

Repeat three times on each foot.

Isometric Toe Grip

While sitting or standing with your bare feet flat on the floor, grip the ground with your toes to create a small arch in your foot.

Make sure not to curl your toes while you do this stretch, keep them long and straight.

Keep your heel flat on the ground.

Repeat 10-15 times on each foot.

Additional Foot Stability Exercises

Here are a few additional exercises that will build overall foot strength, incorporating both the intrinsic and global muscles.

Big Toe Stretch

While sitting in a chair, cross one ankle over the thigh of the other leg.

Gently pull the big toe forward, backward, and away from the foot, holding for five seconds in each position.

Repeat for 10 reps on each foot.

Toe Splay

While sitting or standing, separate your toes as far apart from one another as you can.

Try to keep your feet flat on the ground and refrain from curling the toes. 

Hold for 5-10 seconds. Start with 5 repetitions and build up to 30 over time.

Foot Stretch

This simple exercise stretches out the arches of the foot as well as the muscles and tendons in the calves.

Simply kneel on the ground and sit on your feet with your toes curled under your butt.

Start out with 10 second intervals and build up to 30 seconds to a minute.

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