As an athlete, you likely understand that your feet are the start and end of the kinetic chain. They are your direct link to the ground and weakness in your feet can lead to injury and performance limits. Good balance and body control start with strong feet.
In addition to 26 bones and 33 joints, your feet have more than 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons. Twenty of those muscles are intrinsic, meaning they begin and end in the foot. Those intrinsic muscles are responsible for fine motor function and when we don’t use them, they get weak just like our other muscles.
Anatomically, our feet are designed to function much like our hands. Witness those who can play the piano with their toes, or search YouTube for “crochet with feet” to appreciate this potential. Even if you have no desire to make music or knit a sweater, small improvements in foot strength can help support your arches, keep your toes aligned and propel your body forward with proper posture.
Moreover, the muscles in your feet play an important role in returning deoxygenated blood and waste products back up the leg to the heart to be reloaded with oxygen and nutrients.
Below are three easy exercises that can help you build foot strength and the best part is that they can be done while relaxing in front of the TV:
1. Marble Drop
Place 10 small marbles on the floor and position a small cup nearby. Use your toes to pick up one marble at a time and drop it into the cup. Do two sets of 10 repetitions with each foot.
2. One-Leg Balance
Balance on one foot at a time. Work towards balancing on each foot for one minute. When you can do it with your eyes open, work up to one minute with your eyes closed. More difficult yet, balance on a Bosu ball or equivalent (even a couch cushion will work).
3. Towel Scrunch
Lay a bath towel down in front of you while sitting and use your toes to scrunch the towel towards you then release your grip and flatten out your foot to grab another section of towel. Continue grabbing and pulling until you've finished the length of the towel. Work the whole length of the towel with each foot.
Before long, you’ll be ready to start practicing Chopsticks on the piano.