by Ben Massa

Being able to control your foot and ankle is one very important step to improving your balance, coordination, and performance while decreasing your risk for injury. Your foot is what connects you to the ground and just about everything you do on a daily basis, and in the vast majority of athletics, starts with the foot being placed on the ground. If you have a poor connection to the ground you are more likely to develop movement compensations further up the chain and you won’t move as efficiently or as powerfully.

While the suboptimal efficiency and power may only impact your peak performance, the poor movement patterns you may develop due to compensations increase your risk of injury or pain. You can work to avoid these unwanted injuries and pain while increasing your movement efficiency by improving the strength and function of your foot. The following exercises can get you started, they should be done without socks or shoes as you need to feel your foot in contact with the ground and they can be done standing or seated.

Warning: Foot cramps may occur!

Toe Extension

Start with your feet flat on the ground then extend your toes up off the ground as high as you can, hold for a few seconds and then return to starting position.

Toe Splay

Start with your feet flat on the ground then extend your toes off the ground and spread them out as wide as you can, hold for a few seconds and then return to starting position.

Toe Extension and toe flexion

Toe Curls

Start with your feet flat on the ground then curl your toes, make this more challenging by standing on a towel with a weight at the end and use your toes to scrunch up the towel.

Big Toe Extension and Depression

Start with your feet flat on the ground and then extend just the big toe, don’t let the other four lift off! Return the big toe to the ground and then press it down into the ground without curling it.

Foot Inversion

Start with your feet flat on the ground then turn the bottoms of your feet towards each other, rolling to the outer edge of the feet. Don’t let the knees rotate!

Foot Eversion

Start with your feet flat on the ground then turn the bottoms of your feet away from each other, rolling to the inner edge of the feet. Don’t let the knees rotate!

Toe inversion and eversion
Each of these exercises can be repeated as necessary, use the muscle burn as an indicator of how much to do but don’t sacrifice the quality of movement to get more reps! As with any exercise, too much can be just as bad as not enough so don’t overdue these, start with just one set of each exercise and progress from there.