Your forgotten feet: How to ensure your fitness is on solid footing
Oct 21, 2011, 11:15 a.m.
If you were asked to name 10 factors that contribute to good fitness, strong and flexible feet might not be at the top of your list. Yet any deviations in the health of our feet and ankles will affect how we strike the ground and roll through each step of our day. This in turn affects how we stand, walk, turn and balance ourselves, which affect our exercise activities. So it behooves us to build our fitness from the ground up—literally—by first attending to our feet.
Use this checklist to put your fitness on solid footing:
• Watch your step. Start paying attention to the way you walk. Are your steps even? Do you favor one side more than the other? Do you rotate your feet out? Do you adjust your stride due to muscle tightness? Do you step on your heels first or plop down on your whole foot at once? How is your posture? Often, just becoming aware of these nuances can help you make subtle, intuitive corrections that can make a big difference in preventing future problems.
• Lose the shoes. When possible, take off your shoes and give your feet the freedom to stretch and move unencumbered.
• Perform finishing-touch exercises. At the end of a workout, add small movements such as heel raises, ball-of-the-foot raises, ankle circles, toe wiggles and the classic “towel grab and pull” to stimulate and stretch the muscles of your feet and toes.
• Massage. To improve circulation and healing to the feet, it’s important to include regular foot massages, whether they’re self-administered or delivered by either a generous loved one or a massage therapist.
• Go further up the chain. Because weakness or tightness elsewhere in the leg can cause an increased burden on the foot, be sure to include stretches for muscles such as the calves, hamstrings and hips as part of your regular fitness routine.
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