Foot Strengthening Exercises for Runners

Some runners incorporate strict muscle-building workouts into their routine, hoping to build lean muscle in their legs and core that will make them faster.

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. Already plagued by a foot injury? Try these stretches to relive some of that pain.

More: How to Prevent Foot Pain

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.

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. Rise up onto the balls of your feet, hold and then lower back down. Repeat 10 to 12 times.

Plantar stretch

What it does: Relieves arch pain

How to do it: Sit down in a chair and cross your right leg so that 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.

Toe "lifts"

What it does: Strengthen 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.

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.

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.

More: Q&A: Proper Warm Up and Foot Pain

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 long 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.

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.

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About the Author

Amanda Casanova

Amanda Casanova is a writer and journalist living in the Dallas, Texas area. She has worked for the Houston Chronicle, the Abilene Reporter-News and the Galveston County Daily News. She is an active runner and regularly competes in races in north Texas. She is currently training for her first half marathon. She blogs at and tweets at @acasanova10.

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