Foot Exercises and Foot Care Tips
Many people are more than willing to spend a fortune on facial-care products, wrinkle fillers, botox, cosmetics and even plastic surgeries to maintain their youthful look and beauty, but when it comes to the health of their feet, it could be a different story. The foot, a part of the body that's so vital to our mobility, often receives inadequate care or worse, is abused by a regular use of inappropriate footwear.
Now think about it, which would prove more disadvantageous to your livelihood; a face that's deglamorized by wrinkles or feet that are deformed and in constant pain? The latter, of course. Does this mean you should stop taking care of your face and shift all the attention to your feet? Not at all. Treat your feet as nicely as the rest of your body. It's best to be well-pampered from head to toe.
Foot Exercises for Different Foot Problems
Bunion, Hammertoe, Foot Cramp
Hammertoe, Toe Cramp
Foot Pain, Arch Strain, Foot Cramp
Foot and Ankle Stiffness, Poor Blood Circulation
Bunions and HammertoesClick thumbnail to view full-size
A bunion is a misalignment of the big toe's joint, which causes the joint to enlarge and makes the big toe tilt toward the second toe instead of pointing straight. Oftentimes, a bunion is a genetic condition, but it can also be a result of a foot injury or a frequent use of ill-fitting shoes.
A hammertoe is a condition in which a middle or pinky toe's joint is deformed and bent like a hammer. It's usually caused by repetitive wearing of high heels that put a lot of pressure on the toes or pointed shoes that squeeze the toes together inside cramped toe boxes. Other typical causes include toe injuries and diabetic foot neuropathy.
If you have already suffered from one or both of these foot conditions, you must consult a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate treatments. Foot exercise may not always be able to reverse these conditions, but it can lessen their severity and be an effective prevention for people who haven't developed them.
#1. Yoga Toes
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched forward and about hip-width apart.
- Spread your toes apart as wide as possible and hold this position for 5 seconds.
- Flex your toes back toward the ankles and stay there for 5 seconds.
- Point your toes and feet toward the wall you're facing (Imagine a ballerina's toes while she's dancing!), then hold it for 5 seconds.
- Repeat all three steps 2 - 3 times.
Why Should You Do These Foot Exercises?
Some people assume foot exercise is only for athletes, seniors, diabetics and those who are recovering from foot injuries. In fact, these simple foot exercises can be beneficial for everyone. They're not only corrective but also preventive. The toe grip and ball roll are two exercises my diabetic mother's podiatrist has suggested she do daily to avoid hammertoes and reduce arch strain. As for the yoga toes and ankle roll, they are an intergral part of the warm-up routine in many of my yoga classes. Perform these foot exercises once a day or at least a few times a week. Your feet would thank you if they could speak!
#2. Toe Grip
- Place a small bowl and 20 marbles or smooth pebbles on the floor. The marbles and the bowl should be within 2 feet from each other.
- Sit down on a chair. Pick up one marble at a time with your toes, and put it in the bowl. Continue until you transfer all the marbles from the the floor into the bowl.
- Repeat with the other foot.
#3. Ball Roll
- Place a tennis or golf ball on the floor in front of you.
- Sit down on a chair and place your foot on the ball. Slowly roll the tennis ball under your foot for about 1 - 2 minutes.
- Repeat with the other foot.
#4. Ankle Roll
- Sit down either on the floor or a chair.
- Rest your right ankle on top of your left thigh.
- Interlace your left fingers with your right toes.
- Gently rotate your right ankle in both directions. Do this for about 1 - 2 minutes.
- Repeat on the other side.
Foot Care Tips
- Always wear sneakers or shoes with proper arch support whenever you exercise or take a long walk.
- If your feet have high arches, consider wearing orthopedic shoes or over-the-counter shoe inserts. Feet with high arches are more prone to pain and strain. They need more arch support than those with low or medium arches.
- Feet tend to swell later in the day, so it might be wise to do your shoe shopping in the afternoon. If you're a morning shopper, chances are you might end up with shoes that fit well during the a.m. hours. and become too snugly as the day goes on.
- If your feet usually swell a lot in the afternoon, opt for lace-up and Velcro styles as they can be conveniently adjusted.
- When buying new shoes, don't just try them on. Walk around in them for a couple minutes. You should feel comfortable and stable in every movement. The toe boxes should be roomy enough for you to easily wiggle all your toes, and the heels shouldn't ride up and down as you walk.
- Buy footwear from manufacturers that offer shoes in various widths. The length of your feet is not the only thing to consider when it comes to shoe sizing. The width also matters. Both my mother and I wear a size 6, but neither of us can gait elegantly in 6 M shoes. The letter "M" here stands for the default medium width. Her feet can breathe a lot better in 6 W (wide), while mine fit more perfectly in 6 N (narrow).
- High-heeled shoes are detrimental to your feet. Don't wear them too often. Instead, save them for special occasions which require minimal walking and standing. (Read more about high heels in the section below.)
- Ballet flats and regular flipflops might be comfortable to wear, but they're not meant for serious walking. These shoes don't provide arch support and firm heels, which can lead to arch strain and foot pain. One common foot condition caused by this shoe faux pas is a sharp heel pain known as "Plantar Fasciitis."
- Wipe your feet dry completely after a bath or shower, especially between the toes. This will prevent foot and toenail fungus.
- Avoid ingrown toenails by trimming your nails straight across instead of cutting down the corner.
- If you have chronic joint problems, diabetic foot neuropathy or a history of severe foot injuries, avoid any exercise routine that imposes too much pressure on your feet. For example, running, step aerobics and long-distance walking are not ideal. Instead, consider swimming, rowing or gentle yoga routines with mainly seated positions.
- Excess body weight can be a culprit of foot pain, especially if you have a small bone structure. Maintaining a healthy weight is a simple way to avoid this issue.
- If you experience severe foot pain or any prolonged foot problem, don't ignore it. Visit your doctor or podiatrist to have it treated properly.
High Heels and Foot Health
How Often Do You Wear Heels? (Any Height)
High heels can be harmful to your feet. The higher, the worse. Talk to any podiatrist in your town, and she will surely attest to this fact. Check out the orange pump in the photo above. Does it look even remotely compatible to the human foot anatomy? Humans are not supposed to walk on the balls of their feet with awkwardly bent soles and overwhelming stress on their toe ligaments. According to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, repetitive wearing of high-heeled shoes not only leads to foot deformities but also excessive strain in the legs, knees and lower back.
That said, I also understand women's love of high heels. I'm not one of those Bohemian girls, religiously loyal to hemp outfits and gladiator sandals. Neither am I a so-called feminist who's quick to assume all high-heel wearers must either be attention-craving skanks or weak-minded victims of a male-dominant society trying desperately to fit into their feminine role. Real feminists don't judge their fellow females simply by their styles of fashion. If you genuinely adore high heels, there's no need to throw them away. Feel free to flaunt them when it's appropriate. Don't let RuPaul have all the fun. What you must also remember, however, is that you shouldn't sacrifice the well-being of your feet for fashion, either. Wear those pumps and stilettos judiciously.
Smart Rules of Wearing High Heels
- Do not wear them on a regular basis. Save them for special occasions in which you hardly have to walk or stand. For example, wear them to a fancy dinner party where you will be seated most of the time.
- Opt for round-toe or open-toe styles that don't make your toes feel like paralyzed prisoners. Frequent wearing of pointed shoes with itty-bitty toe boxes, whether they're high heels or not, can increase your risk of developing bunions and hammertoes.
- If your profession demands you to wear heels every day, go with a modest height (1 - 2 inches). Consider wearing orthopedic inserts for arch support or buying your shoes from manufactures that design their products with both style and comfort in mind. Naturalizer and Ecco are great examples. Also, whenever possible, kick the shoes off and allow your feet to relax a little, even if it's just for a couple minutes. Don't wear them all day long.
- Wearing high heels to a dance club isn't a great idea. If you really can't help it, however, limit the height to 2 inches and choose thick heels instead of stilettos for better balance.
- Don't ever wear heels that are higher than 4 inches. That is downright insane. Not only do they hurt your feet, they also put you at risk of breaking your ankles. Make one little misstep in those shoes, and you will likely end up in a foot cast. True, Lady Gaga wears her 6" boots on stage all the time. In almost every episode of Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker also roams the streets of New York so gracefully in her lofty Manolo Blahnik. But how do you know these celebrities are not suffering from their ridiculous footwear? In fact, Parker once admitted to the British edition of Elle Magazine that those 5" pumps indeed give her a lot of pain.