We generally don’t appreciate our feet until there is a problem, a sentiment captured well in a local foot clinic’s tagline: Get back to not thinking about your feet.

Each foot has 26 bones and 33 joints all held in position by hundreds of ligaments, tendons, and muscles. They carry, balance and pivot our weight, supporting us from point A to point B. Whether we are chasing after a toddler, marching in a protest, or climbing a mountain our feet must hold us up.

Some of us also squeeze our feet into beautiful works of art by following trending shoe styles. Still, our feet keep working for us even when we adorn them with this less-than-optimal footwear.

Our feet are often a body blind spot–highly utilized, yet misunderstood.

Take a moment to remove your shoes, wiggle your toes, and maybe even give yourself a little foot massage.

How we position our feet and distribute our weight has a domino effect on the rest of our bodies when we walk, stand, run, and spend a lot of time sitting at a desk.

Or, maybe it is the other way around: if we cross our legs, hold tension in the pelvis, and have uneven muscle distribution in the torso, how does that impact your feet?

In other words, it’s all connected, but today we will work from the ground up.

Tuning into how I am using my feet has become an easy access point to my own ability to heal myself. Relieving sciatica, halting my bunions, strengthening my arches to ease pressure in my knees have all been accomplished.

And, yes, when I begin to fall back into old habits of over-pronating my feet, pain and discomfort start to come back.

But we can always look down, notice and make a change.

Here are four simple mobility exercises to reconnect to, re-energize and strengthen your feet.

  1. Take the first step. The biggest thing we can do for our feet takes very little effort: simply notice and appreciate them. This means spending some time with them and giving your full and positive attention. This three-minute stretch will help bring much-needed space to your tarsals while relaxing the joints in your ankle.
    • Interlace your fingers in the toes of your opposite foot.
    • Wiggle your toes and squeeze them into your fingers.
    • Add ankle circles and other creative movements.
    • Repeat on the opposite side.
  2. Roll them out. This is an incredibly satisfying practice, with immediate benefits releasing stuck fascia, bringing in oxygen, and enlivening nerve endings. This may even create an energizing ripple effect throughout your body.
    • Stand with one hand on a wall place and place an original size Yoga Tune Up® therapy ball under the sole of one barefoot. Or, if possible, do two feet at the same time (as pictured).
    • Squish Squish Squish those therapy balls (like I Love Lucy crushing the grapes).
    • Then roll the therapy balls up and down and side-to-side re-stimulating sensation.
    • Make sure you do both feet!
  3. Go ahead and jump (prep). Get access to the potential strength in your feet that, when engaged, will make you feel lighter all over. You have 20+ muscles in your feet, with ten of them being in the what is often referred to as the “main arch,” the medial longitudinal arch in four layers. How do you begin to access their power? For starters, try out this jumping prep exercise.
    • Stand with the spine long and your feet parallel, hands against a wall (or tree).
    • Inhaling, come up on the balls of your feet, exhaling heels back down, x5
    • Then, come up on the balls of your feet and hold for 60 seconds.
    • Next, with a blanket rolled up on the floor, place the balls of your feet on the blanket, your heels on the floor.
    • Spread toes wide, maintaining a neutral spine, hold this sole opening toe strengthening position for 3 minutes (adding more height to the blanket as needed)
  4. Structure matters. The Yoga Tune Up® version of Tadasana (aka Mountain or neutral position) energizes this traditional pose, strengthening alignment from the base of your feet to the top of your head.
    • Stand with medial sides of your feet together, hip bones facing forward and aligned, arms relaxed at your sides, open across the sternum, chin tucked ever so slightly to elongate your neck.
    • Lift your toes off the earth, wiggle them around, place them firmly on the earth, rock back and forth on your feet a little, finding a firm neutral place, noting there are three bones that touch the ground. The lines between these create a structure of arches for your feet, allowing the support of the earth to travel back up into your system, spring-like.
    • Line you shins, your knees, your thighs on top of your feet. Keeping a little lift up through your center channel.
    • Now, make this a dynamic check-in:
      • First, scrape your heels apart on the mat, as if you are tearing the mat apart, without moving your feet or legs
      • Next, make the action of pulling your feet together, adducting your inner legs, without moving them
      • Finally, the right foot acts as if it is moving forward and the left foot back, without actually moving anything and then switch, left foot forward, right foot back.
      • Repeat all of the above a few times, building from your foundation. Each time, pay a little more attention to how each muscle group engages. Proprioception is key, but also consider checking in a mirror as you are doing this — sometimes we are so used to feeling unaligned that when we are truly aligned we feel wonky.

Come back to a neutral position, take a few more deep breaths, then let all effort go.

This pose is practical. You can do it when standing in line, riding the subway, or cooking–wherever and whenever you want to connect to your feet and strengthen your alignment.  Practicing this pose gives you the personal intel to intuitively move back into a stance that is most efficient for your body.  

 

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Related ArticleSpringtime in Your Joints: 5 Ways to Preserve Joint Health with Jill Miller

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Pamela Ferner is a mother, a social justice worker, a soul open to change. Seeking more ease in life, she stepped out of her career in 2016 and into a period of self-discovery – bringing her to yoga. It is through yoga that she is finding more agility, strength and clarity every day. Now a certified Yoga Tune Up® Instructor, and yoga teacher at the 500 hour level, she teaches in a variety of settings across Muskoka, Ontario. With a love of movement and a keen interest in anatomy, Pamela creates yoga classes with a focus on functional movement, with poses and sequences designed to be playful and give everyone access to more strength and grace in their bodies and minds.

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Kara Stafford

Thank you! Feet, the foundation of our whole body scaffolding- so important, and yet we just take them for granted. Thanks for these fun and accessible tips, I look forward to incorporating them into some daily foot care and sharing them with my students.

Ashley Shears

As a barefoot massage therapist, I can attest to how important foot health is for my work and for my daily life. These are easy and feel so good! What a nice way to treat our feet and our “soles”

Tara Young

This is exactly why I fell in love with therapy balls…relief of plantar fasciitis 😊❤️

Virginia

I started to teach rolling the feet with the YTU balls and toe spreading before every yoga class And I’m astounded by how many people can feel what a difference it makes up the chain, not just in the feet. So so good! Thanks for the article.

Janeen Castillo

Feet matter so much & rolling them seems to strike a chord in every single person!

Sheila Ewers

Love these techniques to nurture the feet!

Robyn

Thanks so much for the tips! I think you are very right in that our feet get ignored. I work with a lot of triathletes and these will be some great tips to help them stretch out and mobilize their feet before and after workouts. Thanks!

RAUL

Imagina un rayo de energia que llega del espacio a la tierra donde estas sentado en La postura que vemos en el post ” Seza sentada con cinto” postura similar al parado de cuclillas. ¿cómo puede ayudar en la restauración de la cadera? Respuesta: A través del sistema nervioso y los tejido conectores perifericos que vienen desde los pies, como son los digitales dorsales, arco, metatarsos, esquiotiviales, y sube hasta el illipsoas y diafragma regulando el control somático del cuerpo.

Barbara Resendiz

The first time I realized how important my feet were was after I took a 200 hrs training with yogaworks and now with YTU, so thanks for the reminder :). It is amazing how the way we put our feet has a direct impact in our whole body and viceversa. Self massage practices are new to me but I am really looking forward to self massage my feet more often !!

Pam

In my yoga classes I find it great to start the process of rediscovering our bodies from the inside out. It is also so helpful with building awareness for balance 🙂

Mariana Espinosa

Feet awareness is my personal favorite lately! It feels so different to have that clear sensation of how our feet are positioned in the ground, sustaining us, and having a direct effect on every structure above. I recently learned this YTU version of Tadasana and was amazed for all the muscle activation that we can have in such a simple yet effective way! Thanks for the mobilization and stretches for the feet and the awareness in Tadasana!

Marnie Werner

Thank you, Pamela. These are really great tips for giving us the best chance for maintaining, and improving the structural integrity of our feet, and so much more! I’m excited to try your blanket trick for sole opening and toe strengthening. And I agree, proprioception is key for so many daily activities we do, let alone just pinpointing how we are feeling in any given moment.

Cindy Lou Kelley

I am in a foot phase currently and your article called to me. Thank you for reminding me just how many bones, joints and muscles, plus the tendons and ligaments that all work together on each foot!

DOLORES ROMERA

La práctica me aportó consciencia de mis apoyos, poder sentir mis pies libres y al mismo tiempo enraizados , mejoró mi postura ( en todos los niveles) y mi forma de pararme en el la vida. Son excelentes estos ejercicios y tan necesarios!
Gracias ello 🙂

Maria Kiekari

I love my feet! I started to take care of them when i read Earthing by Clinton Over, i began to use more minimalistic shoes, and walk barefoot more regularly. My feet became stronger, but also my legs, my glutes, and my abs. I was impressed of how by strengthening my feet i could affect all the structures above and how more stable i felt in life.

Matty Espino

It’s so insightful to read how the foot is a body blind spot – highly utilized, but misunderstood. I completely agree and I appreciate the simple techniques you provide to bring self-care back to this often ignored aspect of our body. I really enjoy rolling out my feet as I do quite a bit of impact on them daily and it’s definitely a helpful practice to keep. Thanks for the additional tips!

Buddy

Relaxation aside, these are terrific tools for bringing about increased proprioceptive awareness into the lower extremity – serving everything from the most basic activities of daily living to the most complex of asana. Love it.

Kimberly McWilliams

Active Tadasana makes so much sense. Placing fingers between toes is a fantastic foot exercise. I have also read that simultaneously fingers squeezing toes then toes squeezing fingers is a great muscle strengthening exercise for the tarsals.

Charlotte Bradley

It’s amazing the relief and relaxation you feel from self massage of your feet. I really appreciated this when I was pregnant with twins. I also realized the impact on my feet when I went up a shoe size!

Dominique Lim

I am also flat -footed and rolling out my feet has definitely changed my life!

Dominique Lim

I am flat footed and have always struggled with running/walking long distances. Rolling my feel out first thing in the morning or before/after a run has been a game changer!

Jennifer Freymond

Thank you Pamela, our feet are our foundation and should be treated with love and gratitude!

Daniel Zachrisson

I really enjoy rolling my feet as I continuously feel them after a long day of walking/jumping around. The stretch with the towel under the toes and the heel on the floor will be added to my feet routine, it looks amazing and I’m sure it feels amazing as well. Thanks for sharing!

Samantha

Already obsessed with rolling out my feet but love the extra exercises in this post. I will definitely be sharing them with my clients and adding them to my own repertoire to keep improving my own posture and proprioception! Thanks!

Randy

Been doing a lot of foot care as of late in my classes. Never thought of using two therapy balls on either foot at the same time. The fourth tip is huge. Going to put that into practice also. Thank you for sharing your creativity

jisook park

There are people come to my yoga class struggle with standing pose, because not enough exercise, sitting too long which makes them difficult when practice balance pose even simple standing pose, also having a problem with there foot, like a ankle sprain .
There are so many changes after boll rolling, they can standing comfortably. it is so great thing rolling boll before yoga practice.

VERA

These steps are simple and take very little time, yet leave a dramatic change in my feet. I just used them as a re-set while getting some YTU homework done. 😉 Thanks!

Toni Cupal

Fantastic tour of the feet – very practical and complete. Thank you so much for summarizing it all here. Would be fantastic to get even more insight into the early signs of plantar fasciitis and how to work with that as well as how knee problems can be addressed by working with the feet. Thank you!

Doug Wright

The feet can transmit major feedback to the rest of the body through all the muscles, joints, and accompanying attachments. In order to get as much data as we can from the ground which will assist our movement patterns, we should take the time to fire up the proprioceptors and tissues in the feet by utilizing Tune Up balls and other helpful methods.

Leanne W.

I really enjoyed this post. Thank you for all the tips on how to enliven and revitalize our feet. We always pay attention to the other parts of our body, but tend to forget about our feet – the very things that give us foundation. I’m going to try these for my next foot “workout!”

Liz

Just beginning to learn the benefits of using therapy balls on the feet and ankles. Best advice is to tune-in during the day to how you use your feet and allow this to help inform what you need (strengthing arches to ease pressure in knees!).

Debbie

Love all these exercises for the feet. I couldn’t agree more on stopping bunions from getting worse. Spent 20 years in high heels at work every day and my feet were in bad shape. Started practicing mindfulness towards my feet in yoga and then teaching, added the ball work and presto – much better! Good reminder to give your feet some love every day.

Jill D Sansom

I love rolling my feet and appreciating the complexity of how the affects travel up stream. However, I hadn’t even thought about how what we do “upstream” affects our feet! Even more reason to get those feet out of shoes more often and give them so attention!

Maggie Zaleski

I love using the YTU balls on my feet! It’s become a part of my everyday routine because of how great it makes my feet and body feel. A lot of us take our feet for granted – myself included. They usually don’t get the attention they deserve until pain is in the picture. I stand on my feet all day when I’m at work, and not taking the proper care of my feet caught up to me. It was as if a big alarm was going off with all of the pain I was in. Once I switched my… Read more »

Lisa Bourque

Your feet are your foundation. We ask our feet to literally carry the load of the work that we do. It is now part of my class practice to roll or self massage the feet before we begin our practice. It makes a big difference!

Annie Siegel

This information is practical and useful. So true that the feet are often ignored despite the fact that we require so much of them. The foot rolling routine is spot on and feels SO GOOD!