5 foot and ankle exercises for better balance

WWhen you think of exercising and which muscle set you are going to train today, what comes to mind? back and shoulders? Legs? Arms? Center? What about the region of the body that is arguably the most unique of all, as it is the only part of the body that constantly makes contact with the ground: the foot? The foot-ankle “complex,” so named because of their strongly linked relationship of interdependence, supports your entire body weight and is the platform for almost all movement.

“Your foot is incredibly complex with 26 bones, more than a dozen muscles, and countless nerve endings,” says Brian Kinslow, PT, DPT, owner of Evolve Flagstaff. “It serves as a flexible shock absorber for each step, a strong lever to propel you forward when you walk or run, and is a rich source of sensory information that tells the brain where the body is in space.”

Research shows that during running, the foot and ankle complex supports up to three to five times your body weight. During the jump, the amount of force varies depending on the landing style (for example, two legs versus one) and the height of the jump, but in general, you’re looking for a minimum of four to five times your body weight. In any case, assuming a weight of 150 pounds, that’s a minimum of 450 pounds of force through the foot and ankle!

If that wasn’t enough, the foot and ankle complex handles force and motion in all directions, be it forward and backward (sagittal plane), side to side (frontal plane), rotational ( transverse plane) or a combination of both. . During each and every one of these moments, the foot and ankle absorb force while bearing weight, and as they come down, they discharge that force and stabilize the foot and ankle in the air.

Why it is important to strengthen the foot and ankle complex

Considering the amount of force going through the feet and ankles, the type and angles of force they are met with, and the fact that we use them a lot (in every step), it’s no surprise that foot injuries and the ankles are among the most frequent. Injuries in the general active population.

In addition, the foot and ankle complex affects the rest of the leg. When his foot hits the ground, a shock wave of force travels towards him and upwards. The better the foot and ankle can absorb force, the less of that shockwave travels to the shins, knees, and above.

Each of these factors contributes to the unique biomechanics of the foot and ankle complex. For example, the foot is divided into three regions: the forefoot (think ball of the foot), the midfoot (from the front of the ankle bone to the beginning of the ball of the foot), and the rear of the foot (from behind the ankle bone to the heel), each with separate and unique mechanics, function, and purpose.

For these reasons, foot and ankle health is a key part of overall physical health. For Dr. Kinslow, “foot and ankle health is an essential part of orthopedic health. It’s something we need to be aware of with most patients and clients, even if they don’t have foot or ankle pain. So don’t neglect your feet and ankles!”

If you haven’t thought about “training” your foot and ankle like the rest of your body, don’t worry, it’s very likely that you are the majority. To rectify that, here are five research-proven exercises, also with progressions, to improve foot and ankle strength and function.

5 basic exercises for feet and ankles

1. Eversion of foot and ankle with band

Sit barefoot on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Wrap the end of a long resistance band around the ball of your left foot. Let it go under the bottom of your right foot (as if you were standing on it), then hold both ends in your right hand. Curl the toes of your left foot toward your face as you turn them outward, then point them down as you turn them inward. That is a repetition. Start with two sets of 15 repetitions per foot and increase in increments of five until you reach three sets of 25 repetitions. At that point, make the exercise more difficult by slowing down and counting to five to return to the starting point each time.

2. Towel Finger Curls

Sit barefoot on a chair and place a bath towel (folded in half) on the floor in front of you. Place a book or sneaker on the end of the towel facing you, and place both feet on the end of the towel closest to you. Keeping your feet flat on the floor with the towel underneath, bring your weight closer to you by curling your toes to crumple the towel like an accordion. That is a repetition. Start with two sets of 15 repetitions and increase in increments of five until you reach three sets of 25 repetitions. At that point, make the exercise more challenging by wrapping a resistance band around your toes and curling against the resistance.

3. Seated heel and toe raises

Start sitting in a chair with your bare feet shoulder-width apart and flat on the floor. Raise both heels off the ground while keeping the balls of your feet on the ground, and then slowly lower your heels back down. Reverse the movement with your toes and forefoot leaving the ground while your heels remain on the ground. That is a repetition. Start with two sets of 15 repetitions in a seated position and work your way up in increments of five until you reach three sets of 25 repetitions. At that point, make the exercise harder by doing the same progression while standing. The final progression is to move forward to do this standing up, balancing on one leg at a time.

4. Short foot

Start sitting in a chair with your bare feet flat on the floor. Without curling your toes, lift the arches of your feet, keeping the ball off your foot and your heel on the ground. Start with two sets of 15 repetitions in a seated position and work your way up in increments of five until you reach three sets of 25 repetitions. At that point, make the exercise harder by doing the same thing while standing. The final progression is to move toward balance on one leg at a time.

5. Balance

Stand on one leg for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Alternate between the two legs for three rounds. Once you can complete that with ease, repeat the progression on a soft surface like a pillow. For advanced balance training, repeat the above sequence and close your eyes.

This program helps develop the fundamental strength, mobility, balance, and feedback in your foot and ankle complex to better cope with the high demands of daily life, activities, and sports. Give it a try, and once you have it, you can integrate it into your daily warm-up as well. Your feet and ankles will thank you!

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