Just as you hit the weight room or mats to strengthen your upper body, lower body, and core muscles, your feet need strengthening as well. Building the tiny muscles in the feet and stretching them will help ward off injuries such as plantar fasciitis and metatarsalgia and keep you training injury-free. Use these foot-strengthening exercises to keep you running smoothly. Already plagued by a foot injury? These stretches can help relieve some of that pain.
More: How to Prevent Foot Pain
Exercise 1: Toe Spread
What it does: strengthens the small muscles in the toes and improves balance.
How to do it: Place a thick rubber band around your toes. While seated, try to spread your toes apart. Hold for five seconds, and repeat 10 times on each foot.
Exercise 2: Calf Drops
What it does: tones and strengthens the calves.
How to do it: Stand with the balls of your feet on a step or stair, and let your heels hang over the edge. Rise up onto the balls of your feet, hold, and then lower back down. Repeat 10 to 12 times.
Exercise 3: Plantar Stretch
What it does: relieves arch pain.
How to do it: Sit down in a chair and cross your right leg so your ankle sits on your left thigh. Bend your right foot's toes back toward your shin and hold. Repeat 10 times on each foot.
Exercise 4: Toe "Lifts"
What it does: strengthens muscles in the lower leg.
How to do it: Pick up a marble with your toes and hold for 20 seconds. Repeat twice, and switch feet.
Variation: Place 10 marbles on the floor and pick them up one at a time with your toes and place in a small cup nearby. Repeat twice with each foot.
Exercise 5: Toe Spelling
What it does: stretches the plantar fascia.
How to do it: One foot at a time, slowly write the alphabet with your toes.
Exercise 6: Towel Curls
What it does: strengthens the feet.
How to do it: Drop a small towel on the floor. Sit in a chair and pull the towel toward you using your toes. Push the towel back to its start position and repeat for three sets of 10.
Exercise 7: Heel/Toe Walks
What it does: strengthens muscles in the shins, ankles and feet.
How to do it: Flex your feet and balance on your heels. Walk forward as far as you can for up to one minute. Rest and repeat two more times. Switch to walking on your toes, and walk forward for up to one minute. Rest and repeat two more times.
Exercise 8: Calf Stretch
What it does: relieves foot, shin and heel pain; helps with Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.
How to do it: Face a wall and keep your heels on the ground. Stretch your arms for support against a wall. Take a step backward with one leg. Bend the front knee and keep your back leg straight. Lean forward slightly, and push your back heel into the ground. Switch legs.
Exercise 9: Sit on Heels
What it does: allows the toes and plantar surface of the feet to stretch.
How to do it: Sit back on your heels with your knees on the ground and hands on your thighs. Push your toes into the floor and gently rock yourself back and forth and side to side. Stay in this position for 30 seconds.
Exercise 10: Deep Squat
What it does: improves range of motion in the ankles.
How to do it: Place your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing slightly outwards. Lower into a deep squat, keeping your chest up and spine straight. Hold this position for 30 seconds to start, gradually increasing that time as mobility improves.
Foot Strengthening Exercises FAQs
Is walking barefoot good for you?
Walking barefoot can help strengthen the feet by improving gait. It also allows more force to be absorbed by the feet than by shoes, in turn strengthening the feet.
Should I exercise if my feet hurt?
Light exercise can loosen up the muscles and tendons in the feet to help improve mobility and reduce pain. Exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms of plantar fasciitis.
Why do my feet hurt when I walk?
Foot pain is often caused by shoes that are too tight or don’t offer much support. It can also be caused by an overuse injury. Be sure to stretch and perform foot-strengthening exercises regularly to help build the muscles in your feet and prevent injury.
More Common Injuries
READ THIS NEXT: 6 Exercises to Boost Foot and Ankle Strength