Strong arches are important for a number of reasons. When your arches are strong, your foot absorbs the impact of walking or running more effectively, reducing your risk of injuries like shin splints and IT band syndrome. Strong arches also allow you to walk or run for longer without fatigue, and they are less likely to develop plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the connective tissue in the bottom of your foot. Don't wait until your arches cause you trouble to take care of them. Strengthen them with these three exercises, starting today.
You can do this exercise anywhere: while you're waiting for the bus, standing in line for your doughnut, or watching television. It's best performed in flat shoes or barefoot. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly transfer your weight onto your toes, until you're fully standing on the balls of your feet. Feel the stretch through your arch, and hold the position for at least 10 seconds. You can hold it longer as your muscles adapt. Lower your heels back to the floor. Repeat the exercise 10 – 12 times per session.
All you need to do this exercise is a robe tie, an old neck tie, or a jump rope. Sit down on the floor, and hold one leg out in front of you. Bend the other one at the knee. Loop the rope or tie around the ball of the outstretched foot. Then, push forward with your toes, so your heel is drawn back toward your calf. Hold the position for 10 seconds, keeping the pressure steady on the rope or tie. Then, relax your foot for 10 seconds. Repeat several times, and then switch legs.
This fun exercise forces the small muscles in your arch to work in ways they are not usually made to work. Take off your shoes and socks, and place a penny on the floor. Try to pick the penny up between your toes. This may take you a while to achieve, but by bending and flexing your toes into unique positions, you're using all of the muscles in your arch. Once you master picking up the penny between two toes, try picking it up with two different toes. Spend a few minutes per day playing with this technique, and your arch will slowly grow stronger.
If you have been having trouble with leg and foot injuries, ask your podiatrist whether weak arches may be contributing to the problem. He or she may be able to recommend some additional exercises to strengthen this vital part of the foot. For more information, contact West Central Podiatry Consultants or a similar organization.