A consistent yoga practice is great for rehabilitating sore feet and ankles, especially if you don’t regularly train barefoot, but sometimes you need a little extra. In this article, I’ll demonstrate 4 exercises that you can add to your routine that focus on improving the strength and mobility of feet and ankles. If you’re a subscriber, you can watch the full sequence here: Foot And Ankle Mobility.
“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” Leonardo Da Vinci
Your feet and ankles are beautiful and complex systems of intricately connected muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments. When they’re strong, supple and well cared for, they provide a stable foundation for fast, powerful and agile movement, good balance and fine motor control.
Unfortunately, wearing shoes can take away some of this dexterity as they prevent your toes, feet and ankles from moving through full range of motion. As a result, feet and ankles can become weak, stiff and sometimes even painful. Additionally, as movement variety is minimised, the area in your motor cortex, that represents the feet, shrinks and becomes less activated, leading to a reduction in body awareness and control. Over time, this can increase your risk of injury from falling.
BAREFOOT FOR BALANCE
Sensors in your feet and ankles are also critical for ascertaining your position in space, also known as your proprioception. They are your men on the ground, sending salient information up to your brain about the terrain that you are walking, running or jumping on. Covering your feet reduces the amount of sensory data that your feet and ankles can take in, essentially dulling the signal. As a result, joints further up the kinetic chain stiffen in an effort to keep you safe. This compensatory strategy can lead to rigidity in the ankles and stiffness in your hips, which leave you vulnerable to pain and injury. And when the small muscles in your feet are weak, the same things happens. Your body increases tension in the muscles in the lower leg, especially the calves, to compensate.
BENEFITS OF YOGA FOR HEALTHY FEET AND ANKLES
- Alleviates pain and soreness.
- A spring in your step.
- Reduced risk of falling.
- Improved balance and proprioception.
- Greater movement dexterity, coordination and body control.
- Increased endurance.
- Healthier joints further up the kinetic chain—ankles, knees, hips and spine.
- Improvements in power and speed.
4 EXERCISES TO REHAB SORE FEET AND ANKLES
Try to stay fully present and curious during these exercises. They get progressively more difficult, so take them at a pace that is right for you. If you feel pain, reduce the intensity. You can always come back to the sequence when your feet and ankles are stronger and more resilient.
1. INCREASE FOOT MOBILITY
This has to be the best exercise on the site. Self-massage is great for soothing sore feet and is a great place to start. When your feet are agile and free from restriction it allows for greater mobility in the ankles and hips. Try to get into all the tiny muscles that control your toes, arches, heel and ankles.
2. STRETCH YOUR FEET AND ANKLES
Screaming Toe pose puts your feet into full dorsiflexion—stretching the toes, arches, heels and ankles. It is the anti-shoe pose. If it’s excruciating in the beginning, build up the time that you spend in the pose gradually. I promise that it will become less painful over time. Just make sure that your little toes are not trapped.
3. IMPROVE ANKLE STRENGTH AND MOBILITY
This ankle mobility exercise is fairly advanced so please make sure that you have the strength and flexibility in your ankles, knees and hips before you give it a shot. You can make it easier by dropping your knees from side to side and missing out the Squat, and harder by standing up each time you come back to centre.
4. STRETCH THE FRONTS OF YOUR ANKLES
This exercise is great for stretching the fronts of your ankles—putting your feet into full plantar flexion. If it is inaccessible for you at the moment, you can build up to it slowly. Start by kneeling for a few seconds and progressing step by step from there.
SUBSCRIBE TO WATCH THE FULL SEQUENCE
This video is the first in a series of shorter, therapeutic sequences that I will be adding to the site over the next few months. You can sign up for your free trial here:
I’d love to hear how you find these exercises and other techniques that you have for taking care of your feet and ankles.