Yesterday I taught another full workshop on Functional Feet. I’ve lost count of how many foot workshops I have taught since 2012 when I got my “Healthy Foot Practitioner” designation (which is no longer offered as a stand-alone course by Nutritious Movement™). At that time I loved that you could specify with foot health and I’ve continued my studies and personal journey to better foot health ever since. A few days ago I returned from a 10 day trip to Costa Rica, where I hiked some very hilly, steep hikes. Some paths were prepared but they were still fairly rugged. Some trails were stony and difficult. I hiked roads, jungles, forests, beaches and around a volcano (on hardened lava rocks). And let me tell you – even after years of hard work, muscle training, barefoot and minimal shoes, long distances walked, my feet still took a beating. I’ve got a looooong way to go!
So now, we are leaving the land of the bottom of the foot (read about the Calf Stretch here) and heading up to the dorsal area of the foot.
The dorsal area is always easy for me to remember because of the dorsal fin on a shark or dolphin which is located on the top side. It’s the top of the foot, and today’s exercise is called TOP OF FOOT STRETCH.
WHY: It’s another simple exercise that will reap untold benefits. Warning, doing this exercise may result in:
- happier and stronger and healthier foot arches
- decrease in hammer toes
- improvement in shin splints
- increase in plantar flexion (if necessary)
- a feeling of “ahhhh”
Okay, that last one requires some explanation. A lot of people hate this exercise when they first try it, but I’ve never had a client keep on hating it. Eventually, you hear a resounding “ahhhh” when the ToFS is done in class. It’s the one exercise that everyone hates and first and loves eventually. It really feels good! (And there are modifications if it results in extreme discomfort.)
HOW: Stand up beside a wall or chair. Eventually you may not need this, but this is not a balance exercise. Trust me, just find a wall, kitchen counter or chair. Stand with your feet facing straight ahead, hip distance apart. Now, take one leg and reach it straight behind you. Try not to bring it narrower or wider as it goes back. Tuck the toes under and place the TOP of the foot on the floor behind you. Rest on it for one minute, or if you find it too extreme, or your foot cramps, as long as you can, and work up to a minute. Repeat on the other foot.
ADVANCED: Reach the leg back further, which will take the hip into extension, the knee straight and more weight on the foot. Don’t rush this!
MODIFY: if it’s just too much for you, sit down, close to the front edge of the chair and reach one leg back and rest the top of the foot down. This is the least amount of pressure on the foot.
Pad under the foot at any stage if necessary! Sometimes the pressure is too much on a hard floor, but a yoga mat, folded towel or blanket makes all the difference.
WHEN: In socks or barefoot, as often as you can. On carpet or a mat is nicer (wood floors are brutal). After a walk or hike. In the office chair (the modified version) at any time during the day. You’ll learn to love it, I promise.
HOW OFTEN: For one minute on each side if possible, or build up to it, as often as you can. Do it right after your Calf Stretch and you’ll be set!