Summer is a good time to give your hard-working feet some extra love. If you're outdoors doing vigorous activities, your feet may start to ache. Like the rest of your body, the joints of your feet need to be supported by strong, flexible muscles, says Santa Monica, California, physical therapist and yoga therapist Sherry Brourman.
Yet they are often overlooked. "Feet have a big job; it's really important that we take care of them," she says. Brourman, the author of Walk Yourself Well, suggests you give your feet just as much attention as you give your hips and back.
Yoga can help you develop balanced alignment in your feet, which can pay off with better alignment throughout your body, Brourman says. It can also prevent and heal foot problems such as plantar fasciitis, bunions, and shin splints.
When doing yoga, consciously stretch and engage your feet. Imagine them as "little cars with four wheels," Brourman suggests. Press firmly into each of the wheels: the base of the big toe, the base of the fifth toe, and the middle of the inner and outer heels.
In addition to yoga, try the following exercises to stretch and heal your feet:
Weaving:Helps relieve symptoms of bunions.
Weave the fingers of one hand between each of the toes of your opposite foot. With a firm grip, stretch and massage the toes and the ball of the foot, encouraging mobility and opening space between the toes.
Towel Scrunches:Strengthens arches, eases plantar fasciitis.
Sit with your feet flat on the ground, knees bent at 90 degrees, with a towel spread under your feet. Scrunch your toes to grab bits of the towel and pull it toward you, inch by inch, so it bunches into your arches.
Palm Tree:Strengthens ankles and calves.
Stand in Mountain Pose, lightly touching a wall with your hands for balance. Inhaling, lift your heels as high as possible; exhaling, bring them back to earth. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
Squeeze and Flex:Good for restoring flexibility, relieving bunions and hammertoes.
Sitting in a chair, rest your heels on the floor. Inhale and flex your toes so there is space between all of them. Exhaling, squeeze your toes in to form a toe fist. Repeat 5 to 10 times.