A few weeks into quarantining, lots of people began to notice something off about their feet. They developed arch pain, plantar fasciitis or heel issues or found their existing foot problems exacerbated. The culprit? Not wearing any shoes all day. Now that we know the importance of wearing supportive house shoes whenever possible, many are wondering what else they can do to improve the health of their feet.
So we checked in with Dr. Jackie Sutera, DPM, a Vionic Innovation Lab member, and Brian Hoke, a sports physical therapist, for their recommendations. Lucky for everyone, improving the strength of your feet is actually super easy to do. Here’s what they suggest.
1. Roll It Out
If you have yet to discover the intimate joy of rolling your feet around on a hard lacrosse or tennis ball, whoa baby, you’re in for a treat. A hard surface is often better than the hands of an untrained masseuse (AKA your partner) at getting in deep to really loosen any tight muscles. Using a ball also means it’s easier for you to semi-absentmindedly roll your foot around while you do something else. For an added boost of self-care, stick the lacrosse ball in the fridge before using or roll your foot on a cold can of soda to further reduce any pain.
2. Flex Your Toes
Hoke recommends doing a series of ankle, calf and foot stretches both before and after you put on shoes, or at least in the morning and evening. All you have to do is first flex your toes up and back for 10 seconds, then point them out and down like a ballerina for 10 seconds. Repeat this process, throwing in a few ankle rolls between sets, stretching slightly longer (12 seconds, then 15) each time until you feel sufficiently relaxed.
3. Stretch Out Your Calves
This is especially important if you plan to wear shoes with any kind of significant heel. Putting consistent pressure on the balls of your feet and remaining in that pointed position for a long period of time can shorten your calf muscles which can in turn aggravate a plethora of foot problems. This is another exercise Hoke suggests doing both before and after wearing heels. The easiest way to stretch out your calf muscles is to stand in front of a wall and place your toes up on the wall keeping your heel on the ground. Lean in or inch your heel closer to the wall until you feel a tug in the back of the lower part of your leg. Hold for 10 seconds, then switch to the other side. Repeat this process, tacking on a few seconds each round, until your legs feel nice and loose. (Pro tip: Combine this with the point-and-flex exercises above for a thorough stretch sesh.)
Bonus: Get a Massage
Or more realistically ask your partner to throw a gal a bone and rub your feet for you (although you can totally do this yourself if you prefer). This is particularly helpful for anyone with plantar faciiitis, as massages can stretch and relax the plantar fascia, AKA the tissue that causes that annoying arch pain. You can also ice any sore spots to reduce inflammation and swelling. This will also make your massage more effective (you can really go deep if you’re not trying to push past swollen muscles) so prop your feet up on a bag of ice for 10 to 15 minutes before you get to kneading.