Spring marks the opening of “outdoor walking season” in western New York. Like any other activity, walking has its own specific injury profile often involving the foot and ankle. If you haven’t been consistent with a walking routine and have experienced a long layoff, how you reengage in walking is very important for avoiding injury and improving your fitness. So, let’s get ready for a walk by not taking our feet and ankles for granted and doing some specific things for them. Problems such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis can be avoided with a few simple exercises and routines incorporated before and during your walk.
To improve the mobility and strength of the foot and ankle try the following:
- Condition the plantar fascia for the impact of walking: roll a small ball along the foot’s long arch from the ball to the heel. This can be done seated or standing for a few minutes.
- Walking backwards emphasizing landing on the forefoot then slowly bringing the heel to the ground stretches the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia. Be mindful about keeping your feet straight as if walking on parallel lines and stand tall which will add an additional load onto the front of the hip as long as the feet are parallel. Add this periodically into your walk and it will get the neighborhood talking.
- Prior to and after your walk roll back and forth on the inner and outer borders of each foot.( pictures 1, 2,3)Also, stretch the topside of the foot by positioning the foot behind you and the bottom by rising up on the toes. (pictures 4,5)
- Foot stomp: Sumo wrestlers stomp the feet to jump-start their leg muscles before training and competition. Follow their lead and do a 5-6 moderately intense foot stomps before your walk to activate the muscles of your hips and thighs which control how well you control your bodyweight with each stride. Your feet will thank you for taking the time to stomp.
- The “short foot” exercise. This exercise will strengthen the muscles of your foot. It takes some concentration but it will help your foot act as an active shock absorber when walking. It’s done by lifting the long arch of the foot by drawing the ball of the foot toward the heel. ( Picture 6) Try a few minutes of this particularly if you have fallen arches and pain in the sole of the foot. When walking with a short foot the knees will naturally lock straight. Try a few minutes of this daily.
Feel free to contact the PT desk at OWM Integrated Wellness if you have any questions about this routine.
Picture 1, Ball rolling stretch
Picture 2 Foot outer border stretch
Picture 3 Foot inner border stretch
Picture 4 Top of the foot stretch
Picture 5 Ball of the foot stretch
Picture 6 “Short foot” walk