According to the American Podiatric Association (APMA), our 2 feet contain more than 50 bones, (about ¼ of all the bones in your body!) 60 joints and 200 muscles, tendons and ligaments that hold them together and help them move.
The average person will walk 110,000 miles over their lifetime. Also, standing in one spot is more tiring than walking because the demands of the same few muscles support us for a longer length of time. So when our “dogs are barking”, why do we tend to ignore the discomfort?
In Pilates, I was taught that when your feet are out of alignment, so is the rest of our body. Joseph Pilates believed that our feet were mis-treated and under-used. If you are familiar with the Pilates Reformer exercises, you know that the workout begins with a series called “Footwork”. Joe also designed 2 lesser known pieces of equipment for the feet called the “Foot Corrector” and the “Toe Corrector”. When it comes to a healthy body, Pilates taught me that the feet are the foundation to how well we move through life.
You don’t need Pilates equipment to show a little love to your most overworked and underappreciated appendages. Grab a small towel and a small ball (tennis or lacrosse size) and you’re ready to go.
Towel Gather – This exercise can be done seated or standing. Place your towel on the floor with your toes and arch on top of the towel and your heel (off the towel) on the floor. Keeping your heel down, pull the towel toward your heel by grabbing it with your toes (including pinkie toe) and arch. Think of making a dome under the arch when you grab the towel. Repeat 5 to 10 times on one foot before switching feet.
Arch Lift – The goal is to make a dome shape under your foot. This exercise can be done seated or standing. Do your best to keep your toes relaxed as you pull the ball of your foot and your heel towards each other. The toes and heel will stay on the floor as your arch lifts to create a dome shape. This is a gentle, small movement. Release the foot to the starting position. Repeat 5 to 10 times on one foot, then switch to the other foot.
Toe squeeze – Place the ball under the toes with the heel securely on the floor. Squeeze ball will all 5 toes. Release and repeat 5 to 10 times. Repeat on the other foot.
Toe spread – Place ball just below ball of the foot with the heel securely on the floor. Press the foot down to widen just under the base of the toes. Your toes should lift and spread. Release and repeat 5 to 10 times. Repeat on the other foot.
Doming – Set the ball in the center of the bottom of the foot. Equally let the heel and toes/ball of foot drop toward the floor, creating a dome. Release and repeat 5 to 10 times. Repeat on the other foot.
Big Toe Lift – Stand near a doorway and place the big toe on the floor and the other 4 toes on the wall. While the 4 toes are stretching, lift and lower the big toe 5 to 10 times. Repeat on the other side.
4 Toe Lift – Stand near a doorway and place all but your big toe on the floor and your big toe on the wall. While the big toe is stretching, lift and lower the other 4 toes 5 to 10 times. Repeat on the other side.