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Foot gymnastics – how to keep your feet fit

by Josephine Andrews
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Foot exercises promote good foot muscles. Strong feet react faster, don’t tire as quickly and support the arch of the foot. This is how you prevent painful sprains, for example. Ankles, shins and calves can also be strengthened through foot exercises. We have some exercises for you.

Our feet carry us through our lives: we take up to 150 million steps in the course of our lives. Your health is even more important. Although most children are born with healthy feet, around two-thirds of adults have problems. This can be counteracted: with the right foot care, suitable shoes and specific exercises – so-called foot gymnastics. You can do the following exercises once a day.

Foot gymnastics: passive movements

Before you jump into foot exercises, you should do some preliminary work. To do this, move your feet passively. That is, all movements are guided with the hands. The muscles of the feet do nothing. With passive movements, the joints are more challenged. Muscles, tendons and ligaments are stretched effectively.

For the following exercises, sit on a soft but stable surface. A soft carpet or yoga mat is best. Pull your feet towards your buttocks.

Exercise 1: Passively bend and stretch your feet

This exercise improves the mobility of your ankles.

  • Grasp the forefoot with your hands.
  • Slowly pull it towards the lower leg (dorsiflexion) as far as possible. You should feel a slight pull in your Achilles tendon.
  • Bring the foot back to the starting position.
  • Now use your hands to move the foot in the other direction: Press the forefoot down towards the sole (plentar version).
  • Come back to the starting position.
  • Turn the soles of your feet slightly outwards – this movement is called eversion. Come back to the starting position and then turn the soles of your feet inwards (inversion).
  • Combine the four movement sequences fluently with each other.

Exercise 2: Passive movement of the small joints

We can only passively move the joints between the tarsal bones, the metatarsal bones and the phalanges. You can do that with this exercise, for example.

  • Take one foot in both hands.
  • Try to find out with your hands where such small joints are located. At the beginning (base) of the toes, for example, there is a series of such joints.
  • Move them one by one by gently pushing or pulling with your fingers.
  • Once you’ve moved them, slide further up. There are other joints that only allow very small movements.
  • Do the exercise with the other foot as well.

Exercise 3: Passive movement for the toes

  • Grasp all of your toes in your hand from the front, except for the largest one, and stretch them until they are fully extended. They are rolled out like this. Hold the position for a moment and then release.
  • Then always grab two toes at the same time, one with each hand. Straighten your toes again. Now pull them apart a bit. In this way, the toes are also moved laterally. Hold the position for a moment and then release.
  • Now take the big ten between your thumb and forefinger. Pull and hold the position before releasing. Repeat this a few times. Then pull it away from the other toes a few times. Again, hold this position for a moment before letting go and repeating the movement.

Foot gymnastics: active movements

Once you have prepared your feet with the passive exercises, you can move on to the active exercises. The movements come from the foot muscles – your feet move actively.

Sit in a comfortable chair or on the couch for the exercises. The soles of the feet touch the ground. You should be able to sit back.

Exercise 1: Actively bend and stretch your feet

As with passive movement, the mobility of the ankle is also promoted with active bending and stretching.

  • Pull the foot up as far as possible (dorsiflexion). You should feel a slight pull in your Achilles tendon.
  • Bring the foot back to the starting position.
  • Now lift your foot a little and move it in the other direction: Press the forefoot down towards the sole (plentar version).
  • Come back to the starting position.
  • Turn the soles of your feet slightly outwards – this movement is called eversion. Come back to the starting position and then turn the soles of your feet inwards (inversion).
  • Combine the four movements fluently with each other.

Exercise 2: foot circles

Alternatively, you can do this exercise while lying on a yoga mat. The movements stimulate blood circulation in the feet.

  • To do this, lift one foot off the ground. Circle left and then right several times.
  • Repeat the exercise with the other foot.
  • In another pass, lift both feet. First let them rotate in the same direction in one direction, then in the other direction. Then rotate your feet in opposite directions.

Exercise 3: Train the muscles of the toes

With the second exercise, you can develop the dexterity of your toes and strengthen the foot muscles.

  • Sit in a chair.
  • Place a thick pencil on the floor in front of you.
  • Try to grab the pencil with all toes of one foot.
  • Place the pen on your thigh.
  • Repeat this nine times.
  • Switch to the other foot.

That is why foot exercises are important

Foot gymnastics – whether passive or active – promotes your foot muscles. Trained feet react faster and support the arch of the foot. You can also strengthen your ankles, shins and calves.

Foot gymnastics in children

In children, foot exercises contribute to the formation of a healthy foot arch. This is essential for developing fine motor skills. The body statics and the gait pattern also depend on healthy feet.

Parents should also note that children do not feel any pain in shoes that are too small due to the layer of fat on their feet. If the offspring wears a size too small, the feet can be deformed. But shoes that are too big are also counterproductive: They inhibit the natural urge to move.

Foot gymnastics in adults

If you stand for hours, have an office job or often wear high and uncomfortable shoes, you will quickly have to deal with foot problems. Muscles and tendons on the feet are hardly stimulated or are loaded incorrectly. Foot gymnastics is considered to be the optimal balance to one-sided movement sequences or the sedentary everyday life.

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