Exercising the feet not only helps improve balance and stability but plays a special role in managing conditions such as neuropathy. Here are five exercises for the feet that you can easily integrate into your daily routine. Try practicing them regularly while you’re watching television. The goal of these exercises is to increase circulation, range of motion, strength and improve sensation on the soles of the feet.
• Perform these exercises seated. If cramping occurs, or if any movement causes pain, stop the exercise for a moment and let the foot relax. Resume the exercises only if they can be done without pain.
• Practice these feet exercises with bare or stocking feet, if possible.
• Sit toward the front edge of a chair and firmly plant the feet on the ground.
• Begin all exercises with good postural alignment. Below are links to other Sit and Be Fit blog posts that feature exercises to improve posture. Generally speaking, you want to sit up tall, lengthen your spine, and take your shoulders back and down.
1) Short Foot
Picture the base of the foot as a tripod with three points:
•big toe •little toe •heel
At the same time, press all three points (the big toe, little toe, and heel) into the floor. The arch of the foot will lift. Continue pressing for several seconds or as tolerated. Repeat the exercise several times before changing feet. Finish by practicing the Short Foot exercise with both feet together at the same time.
2) The “V”
Place your feet together on the floor. Lift all ten toes up as high as possible and turn the ankles outward. Return the toes to the floor so that your feet form a “V”. Lift the toes again and turn the ankles inward, bringing the feet back together. Return the toes to the floor and back to the starting position. Repeat the exercise as tolerated.
3) Foot Somatosensory Exercise
Roll a small ball under the feet for several minutes. A textured object, such as a stress ball, works well with this exercise. Begin by pressing lightly through the base of the foot and toes. Add pressure only to the point of comfort. This “self-massage” stimulates the sensory receptors on the soles of the feet.
With your feet flat on the floor, slide one foot forward and one foot back at the same time. Maintain contact with the floor and continue sliding the base of the feet back and forth as tolerated.
5) Point and Flex
Straighten the right knee, and lift the right leg 1-2 inches off the floor. Point and flex the right foot 5-10 times. Repeat the exercise with the left foot.