Maintaining Healthy Feet While You Train: Includes A Plan of Nine Exercises and Stretches For Your Feet, Arches, and Ankles!

February 28, 2013 Posted by Dr.Chang
     Maintaining healthy feet is essential to training for your favorite activities. While foot injuries and conditions can quickly prevent you from training and performing your best, there are a number of preventative measures that you can take to help you maintain happy and healthy feet. Overall, the key to foot health is awareness; being conscious of questions such as how do your feet look, feel, and change through your training regimen? In what environments are your feet living? When is it time to visit the podiatrist?
     Be aware of the status of your skin an your nails: while providing your feet with proper hygiene, (such as washing and drying between the toes, hydrating the skin to avoid cracking and fissures, and cutting your toenails), regularly inspect your feet to identify any cracking, blistering, dryness, yellowing of the toenails, or swelling.
     Approaches to problems with your skin should be multifaceted. Treat dry skin with lotion, cracking with Vaseline, yellowing of the toenails with anti-fungal cream, blistering with Vaseline, anti-bacterial cream, and blister padding. Cut toenails straight across, as cutting into corners could cause ingrown toenails, and smooth sharp corners by filing them with an emery board. Finally, avoid walking barefoot on surfaces that could cut your feet or those to which your feet are not accustomed.
     Be sure to also identify the cause of skin and nail problems: shoe size and fit can make a big difference in the health of your feet. Wearing shoes that are too loose or too tight can cause blistering, swelling or soreness. Note that when you buy shoes, your size may vary between companies, and certain shoes may stretch with wear. Along with the right size for your feet, making sure that your shoes dry between bouts of activity can make a significant difference in how your feet respond to training. Because your feet have sweat glands, your shoes and socks will absorb the moisture of your feet. Ensuring that your shoes, socks, and feet are dry before each use, and that you dry your feet after each training session, can be key to curing skin maladies. If your athletic shoes get wet after use, you may want to dry them overnight by taking out the insoles, loosening laces, and stuffing them with dry, crumpled up balls of newspaper, and putting them near a fan, or heater that can blow air through them. Change the newspaper as needed.
     Being aware of changes inside your feet is just as important to your training regimen. Although it can be more difficult to figure out the cause of foot pain, instability, or soreness, there are some basics that you should be aware of. First and foremost, do not ignore foot pain. Take precautions to treat any symptoms of pain early by stopping activities that cause foot pain, icing your feet after activity to reduce pain and swelling, and by visiting your podiatrist when pain persists. Wearing shoes that are too tight can lead to pain and even structural problems with your feet, as extreme as bunions. Shoes that are not the right fit or support style for your individual needs can cause you to roll your ankles or to get unnecessary shin splints.
     Foot and ankle strengthening is little publicized in the gym circuits, but is paramount to maintaining strong support for the rest of your body. If your foot does not have structural problems, severe pronation or supination, or other structural problems, try walking barefoot at home where there is no threat to the soles of your feet. If you try to not let your arch drop, walking barefoot in safe environments can strengthen your feet and arch. You can also do exercises that will strengthen your feet, arches, and ankles, increasing the reliability of your body’s base of support. Below is a list of some exercises and stretches that you can try at home to maintain healthy feet and ankles.
Exercises that can build foot strength, arch support, and prevent shin splints:
     –The Towel Pull: Spread a hand towel flat, longwise, in front of your foot. While seated, place the ball of your foot over the edge of the towel closest to you. Use your toes to pull the towel toward your foot while keeping your foot in the same position.
Toe Yoga Exercise:     –Toe Yoga Series: Spread your toes and press all your toes down into the ground. Hold for five to ten seconds. Relax. Then spread your toes again, only pressing your pinky and big toe into the ground. Relax. Finally, spread your toes and press your middle three toes into the ground as best you can.
     –Toe Pumps: While seated, lift your toes while the ball of your foot and the rest of your foot is on the ground. Hold for five to ten seconds and then relax. Next, keep your heel on the ground and lift the rest of your foot up away from the floor. Then try lifting your heel up while the ball of your foot and your toes are pressing into the ground. Finally, lift your heel while only your big toe is pressing into the ground. Hold each for five to ten seconds, and repeat three times.
Exercises that can help ankle stability:
Calf Raises     –Double Leg Exercises: While standing next to a countertop, wall, or bar for support, practice lifting your toes and heel without allowing your arches to collapse inward or outward. After you lift your heel or toes off the ground, be sure to lower back down to the ground slowly in order to make the exercises most effective.
     –The Single Leg Stork: Balance on one leg while standing next to a countertop, wall, or bar in case you loose your balance. Follow the double leg exercise regimen on one leg. If this becomes too easy for you, increase the difficulty by standing on an unstable surface – a folded exercise or yoga mat, a towel, a balance board or Bosu Ball.
     –The Single Leg Star: This one is sure to make your shins burn! While maintaining control of your movement, standing on one leg, imagine points of a star in front of you. Maintain your balance while you reach down to touch straight in front of you, and at 45 degrees to your right and then to your left. Try repeating a full set three times on each leg without losing your balance.
Stretches for your toes, ankles and feet:
     –Calf Stretching: Stretch your calves with your knee both bent and straight, while pushing against a wall or while in a modified “downward dog” position. Be sure to stretch statically, without bouncing, and with your knees straight, then bent, while pointing your foot forward, 45 degrees to the left and 45 degrees to the right.Palm-into-toes
     –Foot Stretching: Gently stretch your toes so that they curl under your foot while you push your ankle forward. Then stretch your foot with your toes on the ground, pushing your ankle forward.
     –Yoga Stretching Series: Interlace your fingers and toes. Do ankle circles, both counterclockwise and clockwise, then extend and flex your ankle, while your fingers are still interlaced with your toes.


In general, listen to your feet as you train. If you are uncertain about the signals they’re giving you, your local Charlottesville and Waynesboro podiatrists, Dr. Chang and Dr. Murray, are around when you need them or have questions.

Comment on this post to share your thoughts or contact Blue Ridge Foot and Ankle Clinic. We’d love to hear from you!


Blue Ridge Foot and Ankle Clinic
Charlottesville Podiatrist Location: 887 A Rio E Ct., Charlottesville VA, 22911 (434) 979-8116
Waynesboro Podiatrist Location: 417 S. Magnolia Waynesboro,VA 22980 540-949-5150


Blue Ridge Foot and Ankle Clinic has been a part of the Waynesboro and Charlottesville communities for over 20 years. Podiatrists Dr. Kevin Murray and Dr. Stewart Chang offer services in sports podiatry, foot and ankle problems and diabetic foot care. Our friendly, accommodating team of Certified Podiatric Medical Assistants look forward to welcoming you to our practice.

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