Do you know how critical healthy feet are 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 (Price 2006). 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 (Lillis 2019).

To improve feet function and help prevent dysfunction in other body parts, perform these foot exercises from Eileen Byrnes, a Connecticut-based registered yoga instructor (RYT 200), fitness instructor, barefoot enthusiast, certified reflexologist and creator of Solely Wellness.

Why Exercise Your Feet?

While feet are our base for all movement, it isn’t common practice for many exercisers to consider foot function. Nick St. Louis, an Ottawa-based physiotherapist and founder of The Foot Collective, says this needs to change.

“A house will collapse if built on a weak foundation. Many of the problems you see upstream are very much related to the foot,” he says, adding that 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 offer efficient force transfer to the ground (Shaffer 2020).

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 be–tween the toes as possible.
  • Repeat several times, 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 2–5 stay on the floor.
  • Alternate, lifting and lowering toes 2–5 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, 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 20–30 seconds in this position and gradually work toward 1 minute.