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Sore feet? Try these foot strengthening exercises

Author Details

Meg Smith blog author

Meg Smith

MSc, FCAMPT, CSCS, CAFCI

Physiotherapist

Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022
 
A woman rubbing her feet in pain

Note: The exercises in this post are not intended to replace the advice of a clinician. If you are unsure about them, please check with your therapist.

Are you on your feet for work throughout the day? Do you walk or run for exercise? Do you play a sport that involves jumping, twisting or turning? How your body moves starts with how your feet respond when they make contact with the ground. Your feet are your body’s shock absorbers. 

We often think about changing the type of shoe we’re wearing or perhaps adding an insole to make our feet more comfortable. However, we sometimes forget that these wonderfully designed feet of ours also function better when we do strengthening exercises for our foot muscles.

Not only that, but emerging research tells us that improving foot strength can help conditions such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and knee osteoarthritis. It can also improve balance in seniors and enhance running and jumping performance in athletes!

So how do we strengthen our feet? We want to target the muscles that support the “medial longitudinal arch” (or instep) of your foot. This involves strengthening the small muscles (called “intrinsic muscles”) on the underside of the foot. One of the bigger muscles in this group is called Abductor Hallucis, it attaches to the side of the big toe.  

To strengthen this muscle, begin by starting in a sitting position and try to spread your big toe away from the other toes. If you need to, you can help move it there with your hand. Try to hold this position while keeping the rest of your foot and toes relaxed and touching the floor. Do this for a count of 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.

Another group of muscles that we want to target are called the “extrinsic” muscles. These are longer muscles that run from behind the shin bone to underneath the foot.  They also support the foot’s arch.

To strengthen these muscles, try the “short foot” exercise. While sitting, try to pull the ball of your foot closer to the heel of your foot without curling or clawing your toes. You should see the arch of your foot lifting away from the floor as you do this.  To progress the exercise, you can try the same thing in a standing position. Again, try to hold this position for 5-10 seconds and repeat 5-10 times.

While these are some basic starting points for strengthening your feet, the fun part is developing a progressive exercise program that is specific to you!

Book online with and speak with a Lifemark physiotherapist or athletic therapist who can further design an exercise routine that prepares your feet and your body for the demands of daily life. Prepare to have healthier, happier feet! 

This blog was inspired by a CPA Virtual Summit series webinar with Jena Ogsten. 

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