Most of us use our feet every day — it's pretty hard to avoid. Keeping the feet flexible and strong will help keep them healthy and ensure we can keep doing all that walking, running, and climbing for a long time.

These exercises target the muscles, tendons, and joints in the feet and can go a long way to keeping the feet healthy. As always, if you have any injuries or conditions affecting this body part, be sure to check with a professional before adding new movements to your regimen.

Stretch the Bottom of the Foot

One way to stretch the muscles at the bottom of the feet is to sit in a chair and place a towel around the ball of the foot. Grab the ends of the towel and pull it towards your chest. This will stretch the arch of the foot.

Another option is to stand on both feet, then step back one or two foot lengths, placing the back foot at an angle of 45 to 60 degrees with your toes pressing against the ground and your heel raised off the ground. This will stretch the muscles on the underside of the foot and strengthen them.

woman pulling her foot back toward her to stretch


Stretch the Top of the Foot

This stretch can lead to improvement in toe and ankle mobility. Sitting in a chair, place the knuckles of one foot on the ground, so the toes point behind you. The further from the chair you place the knuckles, the more of a stretch you'll feel in the top of the foot.

Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side. You can also do this stretch standing, anytime you aren't wearing shoes, so it's as easy to practice when you're at your desk as when you're waiting for dinner to cook.

person standing on a yoga mat stretching the top of their foot


Roll a Hard Ball Under the Foot

Rolling a tennis or golf ball under the foot is a simple exercise that's great for foot health. Stand, with a hand on the wall for balance, or sit in a chair. Place your heel on the ball, then slowly roll your foot backward, putting some pressure, until the ball reaches the ball of the foot. Then, roll the foot forward until the ball is back at your heel. From here, you can move your foot in any way that feels nice, massaging the sole.

Make sure you cover the entire base of the foot. This exercise helps in relieving arch discomfort and easing plantar fasciitis pain.

person rolling the ball of their foot out on a tennis ball


Stretch the Toes Away from Each Other

Stretching the toes away from each other can be done while standing or seated. While standing, try shifting your weight to the heels and spreading your toes apart as far as you can, then relaxing them and repeating.

Alternatively, sit in a comfortable position and place the hands on the feet, with the fingers wrapping around the toes to the ball. Bend your hand back toward you, pressing the toes back with them. Repeat this movement a few times a day for the best results.

Person on a yoga mat stretching their toes away from one another


Stand On One Foot

Standing on one foot strengthens the muscles of the calf and foot and the ankle, and practicing your balance has many other benefits. It is important to do this exercise carefully at first, placing a hand on a wall or counter to maintain balance and increasing the length of time gradually.

If you feel any pain in your foot or ankle when doing this exercise, or if you feel dizzy or unsteady, should stop immediately and consult your doctor.

woman stretching for a run by balancing on one foot and stretching quad


Limber Up the Foot

This is a simple exercise that can help to keep feet healthy and strong, which helps avoid injury. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Lift the right foot off the ground, then draw circles with the ankle or point and flex the foot up and down. Be sure to go in the other direction as well.

These exercises help improve flexibility and range of motion in your feet.

person stretching their foot and ankle on a yoga mat


Toe Raise, Point, and Curl

Toe raise, point, and curl exercises help strengthen the muscles and ligaments in the feet and can also help to improve balance and coordination.

Sit in a chair, with your feet flat on the floor. Place a small rolled-up towel under the ball of the foot. Using the toes, curl the towel under the foot and hold for a count of five. Relax the foot and repeat. Do two sets of 10 repetitions with each foot.

person doing foot stretch by scrunching a towel with their toes


Achilles Stretch

Stretching and strengthening the Achilles tendon, the large band at the back of the ankle joining the heel to the calf muscles, is important because this tendon can strain easily.

To perform an Achilles stretch, stand facing a wall with your palms against the wall at chest height. Move one foot back, keeping the knee straight, then bend the knee of the front leg so you're in a short-stance lunge position. Push the hips forward while keeping both feet flat on the floor — you may need to shorten your stance. You should feel a stretch in the back of your calf. Hold this position for 20 to 40 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Do both sides two or three times.

man stretching his calf and achilles tendon


Sand, Heel, and Toe-Walking

Generally, walking is a great way to keep feet healthy, as it helps to strengthen the muscles and bones in the feet. However, sand walking, heel walking, and toe walking can offer different kinds of stretches to foot muscles and joints.

They are each pretty much what they sound like. Sand walking is walking along the uneven surface of the beach barefoot, which fires up all those stabilizing muscles in the feet. Heel walking involves walking on the heels for a short distance to strengthen different muscles in the feet and calves. Toe walking involves walking on the toes to strengthen the ankles and arches.

For most people, these types of walking should only be done for short periods as exercise, not adopted as their regular gait, as this can throw off the whole body's alignment.

woman walking on sand on a beach in bare feet

Importance of Healthy Foot Muscles and Tendons

The foot is a complex assortment of bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Each of these structures has an important role to play in ensuring that the foot functions properly.

The muscles and tendons in the foot work together to provide support and stability and allow for a wide range of motion. When these structures are healthy, they can do their job effectively. If they're unhealthy, though, the foot can become unstable and unable to bear weight properly, which affects the legs, spine, and up.

Stretching and strengthening the muscles and tendons in your feet on a regular basis is one of the best things you can do to keep those vital walking machines in tip-top shape.

person walking in bare feet through the grass


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