By: Dr Dawn DPT
As promised…some of my favorite stretches for de feet! You can check out Part 1 here.
1. Myofascial release for the tissue tension: Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls are the perfect myofascial release tools to create space in the well-packed foot region. Remember, there are 26 bones, 33 joints, and over a hundred soft tissue structures in each foot! I refer to the YTU® therapy balls as my rubber scapels that can poke, prod, and partition the tissues that bind us and manifest as pain. You can roll them around the entire plantar surface of the foot from heel to toes in a weighted (standing) or de-weighted (sitting) position depending on your (dis)comfort level. Aaaahhh…what a relief it is!
I really like to finish off the roll with a prolonged toe extension (especially big toe) stretch. Big toe extension is super important for decent gait (fancy word for walking/running) mechanics. Even a small loss of range here can cause the foot to spin off the big toe joint as you push off during walking instead of rolling over the ball of the foot. This spinning action may contribute to bunion formation.
2. Toe separation: Your toes have many of the same muscles as your fingers and should be able to perform many of the same tasks. They are under-performers due to being stuffed in shoes all day with no wiggle room or ability to exercise their right! Free your toes! They will thank you immensely…eventually!!
3. Top of toes/foot/ankle and anterior leg compartment stretch: This is a fantastic but oft overlooked area to stretch. If you walk, run, and/or hike frequently especially on hills…this will feel aahhmazing!!!
4. Calf stretch: There are many ways to get at the calf for stretching. This happens to be my favorite. You need a yoga mat or some other device (book, 1/2 foam roller flat side down). Stand with your feet parallel to each other and place ball of one foot on the top of one end of the rolled up mat. Ensuring you keep your hips squarely forward and your knees straight, step your other leg forward only as far as you can keep this good form. Inch your step forward slowly allowing your calf muscle’s stretch-ability to be your guide.
5. Hamstring stretch: As with calf stretching, there are a multiple number of hamstring stretches on the market. I like this one because you can easily stretch both…at the same time. And if one is tighter than the other, feel free to allow one knee to bend to get a little deeper stretch on the opposite hamstring. And why are we stretching this far up the leg? Because the posterior fascial chain extends from the plantar surface of the foot all the way up the back and neck!
Be kind to yourself as you begin this process of foot space exploration. A little bit goes a very long way at first. You are releasing prisoners; they may need a major readjustment period. Here’s to FREE AND HAPPY FEET!!!