When preparing for a race or competition, it is standard practice to include strengthening in any training program. You lift weights, perform squats for your legs, do push-ups or chest press for your arms and chest, and then finish your workout with some stretching (or at least you should). But how often do you strengthen and stretch your feet? They get as much work as the rest of your body, and often take quite a pounding in the process. Even with the best shoes and form, taking care of your feet is an important part of any training program.
Any time you are running, jumping, or walking, your foot is the primary contact and initial controlling point for your body in relation to the ground. Weakness of the intrinsic foot musculature, the muscles in the arch and bottom of the foot, can result in poor mechanics and stresses throughout the whole leg. Foot weakness can then contribute to a multitude of issues and annoying injuries which prevent you from being able to be active.
The best way to strengthen the foot muscles is through control of the toes and the arch. Being able to spread the toes helps to grip the ground and allows the force of walking and running to travel through the foot. Being able to maintain the arch allows for better shock absorption. And just like any muscle, you need flexibility to go with strength. Try these 3 exercises to help get those feet moving!