Foot and Ankle Strengthening Exercises

pain in heel when running
Strengthening the muscles in your feet and ankles can help prevent heel pain and improve overall foot stability. Here are some exercises that can help strengthen your feet and ankles:

Exercise 1. Toe Tapping
Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your toes as high as you can while keeping your heels on the ground. Hold for a few seconds, then lower your toes back to the ground. Repeat this exercise for several sets.

Exercise 2. Toe Walking
Stand on your tiptoes and walk around for a few minutes. This exercise helps strengthen the muscles in the front of your feet and your calf muscles.

Exercise 3. Heel Walking
Similar to toe walking, stand on your heels and walk around for a few minutes. This exercise targets the muscles in your shins and helps improve balance.

Exercise 4. Calf Raises
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly raise your heels as high as you can while keeping your toes on the ground. Hold for a few seconds at the top, then lower your heels back down. Repeat for several sets.

pain in heel when running
Exercise 5. Ankle Alphabet
Sit on the floor or in a chair with your feet lifted off the ground. Pretend your big toe is a pencil, and write the alphabet in the air with your big toe. This exercise helps improve ankle mobility and strengthens the muscles surrounding the ankle.

Exercise 6. Marble Pickup
Place a small bowl of marbles on the floor in front of you. Using your toes, pick up each marble and place it in another bowl. This exercise improves toe dexterity and strength.

Exercise 7. Resistance Band Exercises
Use a resistance band to perform exercises that work the muscles of the foot and ankle. Wrap the band around your foot and perform resistance exercises such as flexing and pointing your toes, and moving your foot side to side.

Exercise 8. Towel Scrunches
Place a small towel on the floor and use your toes to scrunch it up toward you. This exercise targets the muscles in your arches.

Exercise 9. Balance Exercises
Stand on one foot for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then switch to the other foot. As you progress, try closing your eyes to challenge your balance further. You can also perform balance exercises on uneven surfaces like a balance board or foam pad.

pain in heel when running
Exercise 10. Eccentric Heel Drops
Stand on the edge of a step with your heels hanging off. Slowly lower your heels below the step and then raise them back to the starting position. This exercise can help strengthen the calf muscles and Achilles tendon.

Exercise 11. Short Foot Exercise
While sitting or standing, try to contract the muscles of your arch by gently pressing your toes into the ground without curling them. This exercise strengthens the intrinsic muscles of the foot.

The beauty of these exercises is that you do not need to do them often. As a preventative measure, doing them once or twice a week is sufficient. And for many of these, you don't even need to leave the couch. Just do them sitting down for 10-15 minutes while watching TV and you are doing all you need to keep your feet happy and healthy.

You can also incorporate some of these exercises, such as calf raises and heel drops, in your cool-down after a run. Check out the Running Stretches page for more guidance on what to do during warm-up and cool-down.

Of course, prevention is king. But when you have a specific foot condition or injury that does not go away through rest and ice, you should consult a physical therapist or healthcare professional for a diagnosis and guidance on what types of exercises / rehabilitation program to follow.

Lastly, if you are currently experiencing heel pain, check out the Pain in Heel When Running page to learn about common heel injuries for runners and what you can do to treat and prevent them.
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