It’s easy to exercise the muscles you can see—your biceps, your quads—but there are more muscles in your body than just the big ones. We’ve talked before about the muscles in your hands and forearms, which help to give you a strong grip, and today I’d like to bring your attention to your feet.
Your feet contain more little muscles than you probably realize, including four separate layers of them on the bottom of your feet. These “intrinsic” muscles help support your arch, move your toes, and more.
If you engage in a variety of exercises, the muscles of your feet and lower legs will probably get plenty of work. But it doesn’t hurt to take a few minutes to give them some special attention—and if you’re a runner, or if you need extra support for your feet in exercises like yoga, you might find that some foot exercises help you with your other activities.
Try some foot yoga
Yoga can provide a mindful focus on the way our body works, strengthening and stretching muscles in ways we don’t normally think about. Fortunately, Adriene (of Yoga With Adriene) has a yoga flow for the feet, so you can follow along and get to know all those little foot muscles.
Do a strength routine for your feet
If yoga isn’t your style, you can do foot exercises in sets and reps. This video from PodiumRunner will show you a few. One that might blow your mind if you never thought about your arch as a muscle: stand with your feet flat on the ground, then pull your arch upwards, making your footprint shorter and your instep taller. You have a muscle that does this! You can contract it on purpose! Amazing.
Scrunch a towel
One exercise not mentioned above is the towel scrunch. Set a dish towel on the ground, place your toes on it, then (sitting or standing) scrunch your toes to bunch the towel up. Repeat until the whole towel is in a heap under your feet.
This is a fun one because you can actually load it. Put a small weight, like a water bottle, on the opposite end of a towel, to make it harder to pull toward you.
Run on uneven ground
The real function of our feet is to support us as we do other things in life, so don’t think you’re limited to just doing focused foot exercises on their own. Going out for a trail run, or even jogging on sand or grass, will constantly challenge your feet to support you at a variety of angles and positions. If you have a place you can safely run barefoot, give that a try as well.