Exercise and Massage Tips for Keeping Feet Healthy and Strong

Movie stars are often put to the task of getting in shape for their on-screen leading roles. As a result, they are forced to spend hours in the gym firming and toning their bodies to get just the right look. But while they know how to pump up their biceps, crunch their abs and tighten their quads, many movie stars, like most regular people, neglect strengthening their feet and ankles, which bear the brunt of impact during any workout.

While it is extremely beneficial to get a cardio workout, being physical can wreak havoc on our feet. “A 120-pound person walking one mile exerts the equivalent of approximately 63 tons, which is a force greater than 125,000 pounds on each foot,” says American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) member Dr. Jane Andersen. “While our feet are designed to handle the stress of a workout, by strengthening them with simple exercises, we may be able to lessen injuries and even prevent some,” continues Andersen.

So, before hitting the treadmill to get in shape for your starring role at the beach this summer, the APMA recommends keeping feet healthy, agile and strong by kicking off each workout with the following foot exercises, and cooling down with a relaxing foot massage.

Footwork Exercise

  1. Toe Points – While standing, do toe raises, toe points and toe curls. Hold each position for five seconds and repeat ten times. This is a perfect way to help alleviate toe cramps and strengthen calf muscles.
  2. Toe Squeezes – Place a foam toe separator between your toes and squeeze for five seconds. Repeat ten times. This is a good strengthening exercise for people who suffer from hammertoes or toe cramps.
  3. The Roll – Applying light pressure and rolling a golf ball under the ball of your foot for approximately two minutes creates an instant massage for the bottom of the foot. This exercise is perfect for people who suffer from plantar fasciitis (heel pain syndrome), cramps or arch pain (and it feels great!). If a golf ball is not readily available, any type of small ball will work just as well.
  4. Towel Scoop – Place your gym towel on the floor and pick it up by only using your toes. Repeat this exercise five times. Try this if you have hammertoes, toe cramps, pain in the ball of your foot, or for overall strengthening.

Foot Massage Techniques

A foot massage not only helps to release tension in your feet, but also helps to increase circulation and maintain the health of the skin on your feet. The first step to a perfect foot massage is to be sure that you and your partner are sitting comfortably in separate chairs. If you are giving yourself a foot massage, simply lift your foot across your lap to begin.

Next, apply a generous amount of emollient-enriched skin lotion or Vitamin E cream to hydrate the skin. This will also allow for your hands to be able to move smoothly over the foot.

  1. Warm-Up – To begin stimulating circulation and warming up your foot, hold the foot in your hands. Starting at the top of the foot, begin a long, slow stroking motion with your thumbs, from the tips of the toes, down your sole to your heel and up to your ankle. Retrace your strokes back to the toes and repeat 3-5 times or until the foot feels warm.
  2. Ankle Rotations – To loosen the ankle joint and relax your feet, cup the foot under the back portion of the heel in order to brace the foot and leg. Grip the foot with the other hand and turn it slowly at the ankle five times in each direction.
  3. Calf Stretch – If you are doing this with a partner, cup the ankle with one hand and use the other to grasp the top of the foot so that your thumb is on the sole and your other fingers are on the top of the foot. Begin by pushing your top hand forward and use your bottom hand to stabilize the heel. Then, pull the top part of the foot back toward you. Make sure your partner feels a stretch in both directions and hold each position for 3-5 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times on each leg. When doing this stretch alone, find a stair and place one foot firmly on the ground and the other angled against the stair so that your toes are pointed up, touching the top of the stair. Put your other foot above the stair and make a small lunge for 3-5 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times on each leg. This stretches the muscles around the shinbone and calf muscle.
  4. Toe Stretch – Grasp the foot at the arch. With the other hand, starting with the big toe, hold the toe with your thumb and index finger and firmly pull the toe, slowly moving and squeezing your fingers up the sides of the toe.
    Repeat this movement twice on each toe.
  5. Arch Release – To help release tension in your foot’s arch, hold the heel of the foot and use the other hand to apply pressure. Slide the heel of your hand along the arch from the ball of the foot toward the base of the ankle and back up the sole of the foot. Repeat five times.
  6. Cool Down – End your foot massage with the same technique used in the warm-up. Then, remove all excess lotion that may be left between your toes with soap and water and dry thoroughly.