If you are like most people, you probably take some time to stretch and warm up before and after a workout to increase performance and prevent injuries. But when was the last time you focused specifically on your feet and ankles? With 26 bones, 33 joints, and hundreds of pieces of connective tissue in each foot, the feet and ankles are incredibly complex and do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to physical activity. But they are often overlooked and taken for granted until something goes wrong, usually in the form of heel pain or a strain or injury. Adding a few simple stretches and strength building moves to your routine can make you stronger and help prevent common foot and ankle problems like heel pain, inflammation, and fractures.
The good news is that stretching your feet and ankles to prevent injuries and strengthen your workout game, especially if you engage in high impact activities like distance running or other high-intensity sports can be done from the comfort of your favorite chair. No additional equipment or fancy props needed!
A strong ankle is a healthy and injury free ankle. There are several options available to warm up and stretch your ankles before and after a workout (pro tip: you can also perform your favorite ankle stretch at any time).
Simple ankle circles can be performed from a seated or standing position – just be sure to isolate the foot and ankle and perform 10 reps in both directions on each foot.
For a deeper stretch, sit in a chair with your ankle crossed over the thigh of the opposite leg and gently pull your foot back into a pointed position with your hands, holding the stretch for 30 seconds.
Holding the back of a chair or wall for support and keeping your hips square, place one leg in front of the other, bending the front leg until you feel a deep stretch behind the ankle of the back leg. Perform a few reps on each side, holding the stretch for 15 – 30 seconds.
The towel stretch is as easy and gentle (but effective) as they come. Sitting on the floor with a straight back and legs straight out in front of you, flex your feet and place the towel around both feet, pulling the towel back gently with both hands for a deep stretch in your feet and calves. Aim to hold the stretch for 30 seconds for a few reps on each side.
Using a resistance band or towel, replicate the towel stretch one foot at a time, gently rotating the outside of the ankle on each side.
With one foot planted firmly on the ground, raise the toes of the opposite foot up, leaving the heel on the ground. Perform several reps on either side.
Additional Tips and Tricks for Healthy Feet and Ankles
As with every aspect of your health and well being, prevention is the best medicine. While no activity is 100% risk-proof, there are a few precautions you can take to make the most out of every workout and your normal everyday activities:
Wear the right shoes – Many sports injuries result from inadequate support. Make sure that your sneakers and athletic shoes are the right model for your feet, and ask your podiatrist about orthotics if you need additional support.
Don’t ignore pain – A little pain and soreness are normal from time to time, but chronic or recurring pain may be a sign of an injury.
Make time to rest – The “no pain no gain” mantra makes for a good slogan, but taking time to rest and listen to your body is a key element of every successful exercise and sports program. The body needs time to recuperate, and skipping the rest days and pushing yourself too far will only increase the risk of injury down the line.
Don’t Let Heel Pain Slow You Down
For more information about foot and ankle injury prevention and treatment, schedule your consultation with Dr. Velimir Petkov at Clifton, NJ podiatry practice today.