I’m definitely familiar with foot pain. As a former distance runner, I know the ache of a post-20 mile trek. And as a clumsy person, I also know the pain of a sprain all too well. The exercises for foot pain below are ones that have helped me relieve my own foot pain from overuse or during injury recovery.
Before doing any exercises like this, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or physical therapist, especially if you’re recovering from an injury. If your foot pain is caused by a sprain, for example, you don’t want to make things worse by exercising too soon.
Sometimes, the best thing to do when you’re experiencing pain is rest. With foot pain, try alternating warm and cold compresses to help reduce swelling. Resting with your foot elevated above your heart (propping it up on pillows, for example) can also help a lot.
These exercises relieve pain and some of them also strengthen your foot and ankle to help prevent further injury. Once you’re clear to exercise, they can be a big help! Listen to your body as you do the moves below, and if any of these exercises hurt, skip them. Better to take things easy than injure yourself and make your pain worse!
1. The Roller
2. Ankle Rotations
This is an exercise that my physical therapist (PT) prescribed after I sprained my ankle, and it’s great for stretching and strengthening the muscles in your feet and ankles. Just sit on the floor or on the couch with your legs straight out in front of you. Flex your feet, then rotate them clockwise, taking care not to move the rest of your leg. Only your feet should move during this exercise. Work up to 8-12 rotations. Repeat this exercise counter-clockwise.
Practicing your balance strengthens your foot muscles to prevent injury—this is another tip from my PT. To practice, just stand on one foot for as long as you can. If you need to use a wall to help you balance at first, that’s totally fine. Balance takes practice, so don’t worry if you can only stand on one foot for a few seconds at first. You’ll also find that you have better balance on one side. That’s fine, too.
4. Flex and Point
Sit on the floor again with your legs out in front of you, sitting up straight and tall. You can put your hands on the floor next to you, to help you sit up nice and straight. Flex your feet, pulling your toes toward you. If you can, let your heels come up off the floor. Let your feet go back to a neutral position, then point your toes down. Remember: if this hurts, back off. I know the video says to flex and point “as hard as you can,” but if you’re recovering from an injury, it’s better to listen to your body!
5. Stair Stretch
This was one of my favorite stretches when I was distance running. This stretch is for the calves, but it also really good on your poor feet. Stand on the bottom step of any set of stairs, placing just your toes and the balls of your feet on the steps, resting your hand on the banister or wall for balance. Let your right heel sink toward the floor until you feel a nice stretch in your foot. Hang like this as long as you like, then repeat on the left side. You can let both feet hang at once, but I wouldn’t do that until you feel really comfortable with this stretch.
6. Cobbler’s Pose
Cobbler’s Pose stretches the groin and thighs, but one hidden benefit it has is relieving foot pain. This was another one of my favorite stretches when I was distance running. To practice Cobbler’s Pose, sit on the floor with your knees bent and soles of your feet together. Hold onto your feet with your hands, sit up straight, and lean forward, bending at the waist with a straight back. Stay here as long as is comfortable.