Summer is the time to break out the sandals or go barefoot in the grass. For people with weak foot muscles or pain, it may also be a time of increased anxiety about converting to footwear that offers little or no support.
Typically, the arch of the foot drops and the foot muscles weaken as we get older. Exercising the foot can help to lessen this decline, improve the function of your foot and mend the structure of your arch so you can do, and wear, all the things you want to. Summer is the perfect time to find your feet again and make sure you are paying attention to keeping them as healthy as the rest of your body.
There are a few things you can do to assess how well your feet function and improve the performance of your foot muscles. The easiest thing is to start using them. Use your feet to pick up things around the house or try moving a rug. Simply flex the foot muscles throughout the day as you sit at your desk working or at home relaxing.
You can also perform a couple exercises to learn how to use your foot muscles, improve coordination and ultimately strengthen your feet.
• The Short Foot. Bring the ball of the big toe and the ball of the little toe together. Then bring the ball of the big toe and the heel together, which should elevate the arch of your foot. Try to hold this “short foot” position for five seconds and repeat it for five repetitions. Do three sets twice a day. Eventually you can progress to doing this while standing on one leg and during exercises like squats or lunges.
• Toe Dissociation. Pull the big toe up while you try to bend all the other toes down. Try to move at the first joint of the toes and hold for 10 seconds. Then do the opposite: push the big toe down while bringing the smaller toes up. Repeat this three times and do it several times a day until it becomes easy.
The function of the healthy foot includes an ability to support itself. There is no need to hide in your shoes all summer. By continually using and strengthening your foot muscles, you can have no fear when it comes to summer footwear.
Information provided by Dr. Shane McClinton, D.P.T., OCS, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Physical Therapist at Des Moines University Clinic, 3200 Grand Ave., 271-1700.