You see athletes of all kinds and all levels doing it: before games or workouts, after activities, and even on their own. It’s a key part of participating in sports and other athletic endeavors, even though many experts disagree about its value. This is, of course, stretching. Although what experts considered good stretching has changed over the years, this is still an important part of keeping your lower limbs healthy and safe. It can also help alleviate some discomfort.
Why Stretching Matters
Pressure and motion strain tissues over time, which can lead to painful problems. Tendons and muscles stiffen and tighten. You become more prone to inflammation and aggravation in your lower limbs. Conditions like plantar fasciitis, which involves a stiffened plantar fascia band in your sole, and Achilles tendinitis, which can tighten this main tendon, create heel pain and general weakness. You can end up with shin splints, aching arches, and a number of other foot and ankle issues if you are not loose enough in the right areas.
Stretching relaxes and loosens tightened tissues in your body. This alleviates pressure and pain from muscles, tendons, or ligaments that may be stiff or pulling too tightly on your bones. It also improves circulation to the lower limbs. Foot stretches are particularly important, since your feet are under regular stress as you stand and walk around. In the long run, loosening tissues can even help prevent problems like claw toes, heel pain, and hammertoes.
When to Stretch Your Feet
There isn’t necessarily a bad time for foot stretches, though the type of stretching you do may matter for your activities. Perform a few stretches first thing in the morning to help combat any tightening in the heels. You can also do some motions whenever your lower limbs feel uncomfortable to try to relieve the discomfort. Dynamic stretches are best for warming up before activities. These are different from the normal actions people consider stretching, which involves a static position that pulls and loosens specific tissues. These, instead, use motion to activate your muscles so they are ready to perform when you begin your activities.
Foot Stretches to Try
Here are a few great foot stretches that affect a variety of muscles and tendons in your lower limbs:
- Wall Stretch - Place your palms flat on a wall and stand with one foot a little ways behind the other. Lunge forward on your front foot, keeping your spine, hips, and back knee as straight as possible while keeping your heels on the floor. Hold for a few seconds, then relax.
- Plantar Stretch – Sit with one foot propped up on your knee. Flex that foot and gently pull your toes back toward your shin. You should feel a gentle pull in your sole.
- Sole Massage – Set a tennis ball on the ground and put your foot on top of it. Apply a little pressure and roll the foot around, using the ball to massage your sole.
- Heel Drops – Stand on a step with your heels hanging off the edge. Slowly lower your heels until you feel a gentle pulling sensation. Hold that for a few seconds, then raise your heels to neutral and repeat.
Stretching isn’t a magic cure-all for every type of foot pain, but it can make a significant difference for managing many injuries and foot and ankle problems. If you aren’t sure how to stretch safely, or find you develop foot pain, let our staff know at Parker Foot & Ankle. Come see how we can help you. Just call our Houston office at (281) 497-2850, or use the online form to make an appointment with us.