This week’s guest post is from Matt Ferguson. When we think about having a strong body, we often picture toned arms and legs and rock hard legs. Have you ever thought about your feet and toes? Matt is introducing us to some easy ideas for getting feet ready for summer through strengthening exercises.
Summer, glorious summer, such a foot-friendly time of year! Barefoot walks on the beach, cute open-toe shoes, and let’s not forget casual flip-flops on those hot summer days cruising along the boardwalk. Also, while we’re at it, let’s not forget foot cramps, arch pain, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains and a host of knee, hip and back problems.
Why is it that when the temperature is right to set your tootsies free, you have to either endure the pain or give-up ‘cute’ for ‘sensible’?
Unfortunately, because most of us have spent our lives wearing well-supported shoes, walking on flat surfaces and moving in one direction (forwards), our feet and ankles are actually very weak and have significant muscle imbalances. These weaknesses & imbalances lead to higher rates of injury (ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, etc.) and dramatically affect your ability to stay healthy and active.
There is good news, however; by performing a few simple exercises a few times a week, you can address these weaknesses and not let foot issues slow you down. Also, if you are already suffering from one or more of the ailments listed above, research has proven that strengthening the muscles and tendons that support the foot and ankle can provide a huge benefit.
So here are a few simple things you can do to strengthen your feet and ankles:
Perform Exercises Throughout the Day
Standing at the photocopier? Talking on the phone? Watching your kid’s soccer practice? These are perfect times to get started strengthening your feet. Perform some simple toe raises and balance exercises, and you’ll be surprised how quickly your strength improves. While these exercises are good and very convenient, they should only act a ‘base’ to strengthening your feet and ankles. You’ll also need to add side-to-side movements for better stability, toe-curling movements to strengthen your arches, and resisted toe raises to strengthen your shins.
Begin a Simple Foot and Ankle Strengthening Program
Unless you have the time and energy to transition in to a comprehensive barefoot training regime, having an easy-to-use and effective tool to strengthen the feet is your best bet. Described by one running expert as a ‘personal trainer for your feet’, AFX – Ankle Foot maXimizer™ packs volumes of science into one simple device. Using AFX means setting aside a few minutes a day, 3 times a week for strengthening your feet and ankles, however it’s ease-of-use means you can do it while watching TV or reading Awakened Wellness blogs!
Add Barefoot Exercises to Your Workout
Adding barefoot to a few of your current work-out exercises can also help make you stronger. Barefoot lunges, single leg side-to-side hops and walking in-place on the dome side of a Bosu™ trainer are good exercises. Just make sure you take it slowly, because these are weight-bearing exercises so you want to be careful and not get injured.
With over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, the foot and ankle are designed by nature to be strong and mobile. Incorporating some basic exercises will go a long way in ensuring that the 7,000 to 10,000 steps you take every day are pain-free and that you not only enjoy the best of summer, but stay healthy all year long!
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Matt Ferguson is President & CEO of Progressive Health Innovations and co-inventor of AFX – Ankle Foot maXimizer (www.AFX-online.com). AFX is currently used by pro sports teams, professional dancers, elite training and physical rehabilitation centers, and most importantly, regular people looking to stay healthy and active.