Are you putting your best foot forward? Healthy feet are vital for mobility, balance, and independence. And yet, with the exception of the occasional pedicure, many of us forget to take care of our feet.

Whether you are in the habit of running in worn-out sneakers, wearing snug stilettos, or skipping over sole-soothing stretches, wear and tear will catch up with your feet. Preventative, foot-focused fitness is the best way to avoid the debilitating aches and pains associated with weak feet.

For the following exercises, you will need a tennis ball and a hand towel.

Achilles heel
The Achilles tendon runs along the back of the ankle, bridging the calf and the heel bone. This exercise helps to keep the tendon limber and reduce the risk of tension-related injury.

  • Begin by facing a wall. Extend your arms and place your palms on the wall for support.
  • Take a large step back with your left foot, keeping your left leg straight and heel pressed into the ground.
  • Bend the right leg to shift your body weight as you lean in toward the wall. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds; repeat twice, then switch sides.

Foot ball
Plantar fascia is the connective tissue found between your heel and toes. Plantar fasciitis can develop when this tissue becomes inflamed from overuse, flat-footedness, a high arch, or gait compensation. This exercise can help alleviate any arch-related discomfort.

  • Start by sitting in a chair with your shoulders back and feet planted on the floor.
  • Place a tennis ball on the ground and position your right foot on top of it.
  • Apply pressure to the ball as you roll it back and forth to massage the bottom of your foot. Continue this movement for at least one minute, then repeat on the left side.

Toe pushes
This movement creates contractions in the foot to help strengthen the surrounding muscle fibers. 

  • Remain in your chair and place the towel at your feet, positioning the front half of your left foot on the towel.
  • Keep your heel planted as you scrunch your toes and pull the towel in toward your heel. Continue these contractions for 10 reps, then return your foot to the starting position and straighten out the towel. Repeat three times with the left foot, then switch sides.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt

Good for the sole
If you cram your feet into circulation-constricting heels or other ill-fitting shoes, you've likely experienced painful foot cramps. This stretch is designed to relieve any tension that builds at the base of the foot, to prevent uncomfortable muscle spasms.

  • From a seated position, cross your legs so your right ankle rests on top of your left thigh.
  • Grasp your big toe on your right foot and gently bend it back toward your shinbone. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, then release. Repeat three times on each foot.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt

Don't let a lack of foot care leave you defeated.

Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach with a focus on movement and mindfulness. To learn more, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.