Crunches, leg lifts, planks, and more crunches. A lot of us do whatever it takes to strengthen our core, or at least hope to some day. Your core is a key part of your balance, providing strength to your posture and hey…just having toned abs is always a plus, right? However, there are a couple things we probably overlook when it comes to having great posture: our feet.
These little guys keep us in touch with the earth, and we tend to take them for granted. In fact, we use arch supports and cushioning shoes to make walking even easier on us. Because of this, our arches can weaken and affect our overall posture and stance. When the platform we stand on is weakened, it can lead to bigger problems down the road. As you stand, walk, and run around, the way you take steps greatly affects your ankles all the way up through your spine. Did you know the alignment of your knees can be altered because of weakened feet? Perhaps they used to be in good shape, but just as you need to tone up your arms (those muscles don’t just happen on their own), your feet could use extra attention to perform their best.
In order to achieve top-notch feet, we must activate them. Yoga is a good place to start. Simple training techniques, like toe exercises, heel raises (and imaginary heel raises), leaning, and other workouts will improve the condition of your feet.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lift JUST your big toes. Now try to keep your big toes down and lift all your other toes. Many people who pronate (roll to their inner arches) will struggle with lifting their big toes. Those who supinate (roll to the outer edges of their feet) may have a hard time lifting all the other toes. This is a balance exercise and is used to help train your feet. Change isn’t going to happen overnight; you’re unlearning your bad habits and attempting to fix them.
You’ve probably done heel raises before, but try to do them slowly while focusing on how your feet touch the ground. Next, stand there with your eyes closed, imagining that you’re doing heel raises. Distribute your weight toward your toes as if you’re raising your heels. Focus on what this feels like.
Specifically for balance, you can stand on one foot and extend your opposite leg back. Be careful about your posture; don’t hunch over, and try to focus on keeping your balance. You may feel this in the muscles of your ankles – that’s a good thing. You’re working out areas that probably haven’t been used (or used properly) for awhile. You can even try extending that same opposite leg to the front. Try this out with the other leg. You might waver and need to step down…just like all the other exercises, it’ll take time to strengthen the different areas of your feet. Stick with it!
Next is an exercise that helps you properly distribute your weight. Some people stand more into their heels, which can hyperextend their knees and cause other issues. Once again, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean forward, as if you’re in a skiing position. Don’t bend at the waist – just lean. You should feel this in your toes, core, and at the soles of your feet. There will be a lot of muscle activity going on…weight distribution can lead to disengagement of feet, so this can help train you to not put all your weight on your heels. It’s all about muscle memory.
If you’re flat-footed, it will be difficult performing these exercises on a hard, flat surface. Keep at it. As your feet strengthen, change up what you stand on by using a towel or softer surface. This will take your workout up a notch.
Finish off your foot engagement with a nice foot rub. This will help relax them. Who doesn’t like a good foot rub? Massage your soles and stretch out those toes! If your feet are too sore, take a break and get back to these techniques a little at a time. Crunches just won’t do – your soles, arches, toes, and ankles deserve a good workout routine of their own!
And don’t forget, you can get many of your footwear needs at Working Person’s Store!