Hiking is a favorite form of exercise to many. It’s so much more than just walking up and downhill. You get fresh air, beautiful views, and a terrific feeling of accomplishment from actually covering ground, instead of going nowhere on a treadmill.
However, hiking can also lead to some pretty significant aches and pains.
If your hiking practice is inconsistent, and your body is not conditioned for the mountains and hills you’re treading over, it’s likely you’ll be hit with some pain and inflammation the next day.
Also if you cover a ton of ground you could be experiencing repetitive stress/strain in your joints and muscles from all those footfalls.
To help relieve aches, pains and inflammation in your knees, feet, ankles, and hips we’ve got a lightweight solution that will barely add any weight to your pack.
All below techniques can be performed with the two Original sized Yoga Tune Up® balls (and their snug grip tote!). They weigh in at just 8 ounces and will gives you loads of pain relief!
Check out the self-massage ball therapy exercises below, then get back out there and enjoy the fresh air.
Hiker Foot Pain Relief
Plantar fasciitis is a common form of heel pain that shows up for hikers. It comes from inflammation of the fascia (taut band of connective tissue) that stretches across the sole of your foot.
When plantar fasciitis hits it can hurt like a mother!
But it’s a bit more complex that that local sensation on the bottom of the foot.
Fibers of the plantar fascia have continuity with the fibers of your Achilles’ tendon, and calf muscles. So be sure to hit up the below exercises addressing the lower leg as well if you’re experiencing foot pain.
Now, let’s get down to business and give you some foot relief.
Hiker Foot Myofascial Massage Technique
Remove one therapy ball from the tote and place it under the arch of one of your feet.
Rest your heel on the ground, this your toes in the air (this will induce an immediate calf stretch).
If you are having trouble with balance, put a hand on a tree. If it’s too intense putting your standing weight on the ball, sit on a rock or bench and do the same exercises from a seat.
Start light… gently rock your foot side to side – trying to get your pinky toe, then your big toe to the ground as you go back and forth. This will “cross-fiber” the plantar fascia.
Next, move your foot forward and back – running the therapy ball along the length of the foot. This is called “stripping” or going with the grain of the target tissue.
Finally, twist your foot right and left (just like how your grandma used to “do the twist”), creating a squeegee effect twisting your skin and fascia this way and that.
Step off and notice if your foot feels any warmer, plumper or happier. Then do the other side.
Hiker Calf Pain Relief
Achilles tendinitis is caused by overuse of the Achilles tendon. The Achilles’ tendon is the strong fascial band that binds your calf muscles to your heel bone. It can get aggravated by the repetition of hiking in varied terrain.
Pain associated with Achilles tendinitis might just start out as an achy sensation in the back of your ankles. But if gone unaddressed, it could turn into a more severe sensation.
One of the keys to addressing this inflammation, is working out some of the kinks, trigger points and knots in the calf muscles.
That’s precisely what we will do in the exercise below.
Hiker Calf Roll Therapy Ball Exercise
Remove the Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls from the snug grip tote.
Kneel on soft ground and rest a therapy ball behind each knee, on the bulkiest part of your calf muscles.
First, lean your hips back until you feel the pressure of the therapy balls and take a couple of breaths while your body acclimates.
Next, lightly rock your hips side to side to the therapy balls “cross-fiber” over your soleus and gastrocnemius muscles.
If you would like more intensity, sit a little heavier and “contract/relax” your calf muscles by squeezing and releasing them into the therapy balls.
Continue for about two minutes.
Take a few moments after your self-massage to sense the difference before and after your self-myofascial massage.
Hiker Knee and IT Band Pain Relief
“Hiker knee” is no joke and can sideline many an avid trekker. It’s basically caused by the compressive forces of repeatedly taking steps downhill, with the added weight of a pack, on varied terrain.
Many hikers take preventative measures such as using hiking sticks and knee braces.
It’s also a great idea to strengthen your leg muscles overall, including conditioning your hamstrings and gluteal muscles to bear some of the weight of your walking, as overuse in the quads, and hip-flexors can contribute to hiker’s knee.
For today, we are going to focus on relieving tension in a hip flexor called your tensor fascia lattae (TFL). This muscle attaches from your iliac crest (top of your pelvic wing), straight down into your Iliotibial band (IT band).
When your TFL gets shortened, or hypertonic from repetitive use, it can feed tension into the IT band, causing it to tug on structures of the knee where it attaches.
So a great way to address tension in the knee is actually to massage the TFL up near the hip.
Check it out.
Hiker Knee and IT Band Therapy Ball Exercises
Place one therapy ball on a surface like a picnic table.
Locate a tender spot at the upper (superior) outer (lateral) thigh.
Angle your body so you can rest your weight into that spot for a few breaths of sustained compression.
Next, begin to rock your body up and down, right and left.
You could even experiment with clenching and relaxing the muscles you’re targeting (this is called a “contract/relax” technique).
As a hiker, this area might be extremely tender for you. Go easy and notice how your hip/knee feel after you finish about 2 minutes of rolling.
Hit up the other side.
Hiker Shin Pain
Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, cause tenderness, soreness, pain and swelling in the front of the lower leg.
But if you’ve had shin splints, you already know this! Sometimes the pain is related to the bone, sometimes it’s muscle related due to tight fascia.
Shin splints can come from repetitive stress on the shinbone caused by walking on uneven surfaces, a sudden increase in intensity and duration, or just good old repetition of movement.
To help ease up the tension in these taut tissues, try the following technique.
Hiker Shin Myofascial Massage Exercise
Place the toted Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls on a hard surface.
Rest your tibia (frontal shin bone) in the groove between the therapy balls.
Brace yourself on your hands and knees and slowly cruise your lower leg forward and back, so the therapy balls roll up and down the sides of your shin.
When you encounter a particularly tender spot, pause, lean into it, and try to breath slowly and deeply.
Then continue up and down for approximately two minutes.
Take a moment to rest before moving to the other side. You will probably need it!
Hiking on Into the Horizon
With proper conditioning of your muscles, fascia and joints, hiking can be a sustainable form of exercise well into the later seasons of life.
We hope you take the time to regularly practice myofascial massage and strengthen and condition all tissues so you can enjoy the varied terrains of the great outdoors for years to come!
Shop this post: To practice all of the above techniques, get the original Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls in tote.
Related Article: 9 of the Best Self-Myofascial Massage Techniques to Overcome Pain
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