Foot strength, health, and the effect that happy feet have on all of our movement patterns is a subject I am mildly obsessed with – just ask any of my clients! So it was a blast to write an article for Runner’s World about my 3 favorite foot strengthening exercises. These exercises regularly show up in my clients’ programming, especially if they’re runners.
Below is an excerpt of the article – be sure to click the link at the bottom of the post for the full story and to see the exercises explained in detail, as well as videos of each move!
3 Essential Foot Exercises That Strengthen Your Feet for Running
One of the most important factors for a better run is a set of healthy, happy feet.
Ask runners which muscles are the most important to strengthen for a more efficient stride, and they will most likely tick off a list that includes quads, glutes, hamstrings, or calves. While these powerful movers are important for building strength and speed, they shouldn’t get all the glory. One of the most overlooked factors for better running is the health of your feet.
“Running is a high-impact exercise, and your feet are the first point of contact every time you hit the ground,” says Corinne Fitzgerald, head coach of Mile High Run Club in New York City and competitive runner. “Taking care of our feet is just as important as the big muscle groups that move us to run.”
When Fitzgerald talks about caring for our feet, she’s not talking about foot massages or pedicures, but rather strengthening exercises and mobility work.
“The feet are often overlooked when we talk about strength work,” she says. “When we run, we land on one foot at a time with anywhere from two to three times our body weight as distance runners. Working on foot strength will help improve your natural elasticity, and you will react quicker. Strengthening the muscles that stabilize the feet can also help us prevent our arches from caving in toward the ground or our ankles to roll outward.”
In other words, strong feet are stable feet, and stable feet are less likely to experience an unhealthy level of pronation or supination. Stability and mobility in our feet also play an important role in optimizing performance, and a lack of stability that starts in the foot can travel up the leg.
“Having adequate foot strength and mobility to tolerate the demands of running is important for efficient running,” adds Christopher Herbs, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S. “A lack of mobility—especially a lack of extension at the great toe or dorsiflexion at the ankle—could lead to compensations, particularly at the knee or hip.”
On the more extreme end of the spectrum, neglecting the strength and mobility of your feet could potentially play a roll in causing more painful injuries. “Common issues that can occur in people with weak feet are inflammation, plantar fasciitis, bunions, neuromas, and even stress fractures in the feet or shins,” Fitzgerald says.