20 Simple Foot Exercises for Strength, Balance, and Flexibility


There are many small muscles in the feet that are at risk for atrophy if we don’t get out of our shoes and move our feet as they are meant to be moved. This is especially important as we age in order to avoid injuries. Orthotics worn as a permanent solution to foot problems also contribute to foot weakness by impacting the natural bio-mechanical function of the feet and body. If the smaller muscles in the feet are too weak to support the foot and ankle, the body compensates by increasing tension in the larger muscles. This causes tightness in the calf and ankle, which can cause foot pain as well as other body imbalances. Stretching might help, but improved control and strength in the foot is what is really needed.

Yoga is a great way to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the feet, as is walking barefoot. But for those who are already experiencing foot pain, or who have tight or weak muscles, I've listed some exercises that can help. These exercises work best if done at night before sleep, and before getting out of bed in the morning. Each exercise should be done using the full range of motion and discontinued if there is any pain. (Not all exercises need to be performed at once.)

For the Feet

Basic 3:

  • Ankle circles: full range of motion in both directions

  • Dorsiflexion/plantarflexion: toes pointed up, toes pointed down

  • Inversion/Eversion: keeping knee stable, rotate foot toward midline, away from midline

  • ABC’s: draw alphabet with the foot

Posterior Compartment Stretch (back of calf)

  • Wall: with toes extended on wall, push and hold for 30 sec

  • Stair: with toes on stair, drop heel and hold for 30 sec

Anterior Compartment Stretch (front of calf)

  • Chair: with leg under chair, stretch front of foot and leg

  • Floor: sit on heels and lift knee

For the Toes

Toe Spreading:

  • Active stretch: spread toes/relax/repeat

  • Rubber band: place band around all 5 toes/stretch/relax/repeat

Flexion/Extention

  • Passive: flex and extend toes with hand all together/individually

  • Active: flex and extend toes

For the Arch

  • Heel lifts: toes pointed straight, toes pointed out

  • Foot circles with toes curled (foot might cramp, shake foot out) 10 reps each directio

  • Balance on one leg

  • Towel scrunches: reach out with toes, then pull in. Hold 10 sec/repeat 5xs

  • Pencil/marble pick up: using toes, pick up a pencil/release/repeat, pick up/drop marbles

For the Ankle

  • Diagonal pattern: trace and X with toes

  • Squats with ankle rotation: in a squat position, roll ankle side to side

  • Ankle rolling side to side: stand and roll ankle side to side on ball/heel of foot

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