Strengthening your feet and ankles for running!
Running is one of the activities that sounds so easy and could be challenging at the same time. If we go out there and ask any runner what are some of the muscles that need to get strengthened for running: most likely we will get a list like the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. That is a good start: those are major muscle groups contributing to running and there are more muscles that also play an important role in running, they are smaller in size but can be the key factors for better running!
Our feet spend a lot of time in well-designed shoes for running, walking, etc. We need to take the shoes off and strengthen the muscles to have a healthy range of motion, a strong arch and ankle, and to decrease the risk of both acute and chronic injuries that come with running. Stronger feet and ankles will provide a solid base of support and better mechanics.
Here are a few exercises and tips that you can try, compare them side to side, and make it fun:
1. Ankle Alphabet: Sit in a chair with good posture, Rest the edge of your heel on the floor or lift off if you are a pro. Write the letters of the alphabet A to Z with your big toe: make sure all the motion comes from the ankle joint. Write the letters as big as you can.
2. Ankle Pumps: Point the toes up toward the head (Dorsiflexion) and pointing the toes down (plantar flexion), make sure you spend a sec or 2 at each end range and really feel the stretching and tightening of the muscles.
3. Toe walking: slowly roll onto your toes and keep the heel lifted, walk forward and backward, do this slowly and focus your attention on how the muscles at the bottom of the feet.
4. Heel walking: this is a great way to activate the muscles in the front of the shine, again: walking slowly and keep the tension of the muscle, the focus is on the muscles. Check your posture: you should be “Nice and Tall”.
5. Toe scrunch with a towel: Sit with foot on a towel, make sure the heel is stable and not moving, scrunch the towel with your toes. A great one for the intrinsic muscles at the bottom of the feet.
Take home message: start slow, focus on the quality of the exercises, and always warm up before and stretch after the run!
Jason Yuan, Registered Physiotherapist, BSKin, DPT
Jason is a registered physiotherapist with Physio2U. Having played high-level sports in high school & college in the United States, he saw a need for improved client care post-injury. Jason set his sights on becoming a registered physiotherapist to better help people rehabilitate after injuries and provide a more personalized approach to treatment and care. Jason uses a client-centered approach and focuses on incorporating the client’s goals with the latest evidence and literature support into a plan of care. He’s fluent in English and Mandarin, speaks conversational Cantonese and is learning Spanish.