Press-Republican

Columns

January 24, 2012

Strengthening ankles, feet beneficial

Foot pain can be a very serious matter, especially if you work on your feet all day. There are many different types of foot pain — high- and low-arch issues, tendinitis, heel spurs, ankle sprains and, most commonly, plantar fasciitis. Of all the structures in your body, your feet probably take the most beating.

It is possible and greatly beneficial to strengthen your feet and ankles in order to prevent any debilitating injuries that could result later on. If you already have foot pain, some of the prevention techniques could still help, but you should talk to your doctor beforehand.

Weakness and tightness seem to be the cause of most injuries I have seen, and usually both of these factors are present to cause injury. To prevent these issues, strength training and stretching must be performed at least a few times each week. Stretching can be done every day. Two crucial strength-training exercises for the foot are calf raises and toe raises.

Calf raises are exercises in which you lift the heel off the ground by pushing down on the balls of your feet. You can do these while standing or sitting. By simply standing on the balls of your feet, you will be working the calf muscles behind the lower leg. Lifting off your heels 10 to 20 times should work the calf muscles appropriately. When sitting, you can add weight to your lap with the use of the seated calf-raise machine and do the same motion with the ankle. These machines will often allow you to drop your heel lower to allow full range of motion in the ankle joint.

Toe raises can be done by just raising and lowering the ball of your foot. To add resistance, you can either use exercise bands or position a weight to the top of your foot. There is an easier way, however. By lightly walking on your heels for 10 to 20 steps you will be working the same muscles. The best place to do this is on a soft carpet without your shoes on. You should feel a slight burning in the front of your shin in the tibialis anterior muscle, which should always be strengthened in conjunction with the calf muscle.

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