Pain in the arch of the foot is a common symptom of many foot conditions; such as plantar fasciitis, flat feet, fallen arches, high arches and even general wear and tear. Regardless of the cause, performing consistent foot arch stretches and exercises can make a big difference in managing AND relieving foot pain. Keep scrolling for a list of the best stretches and exercises (recommended by physical therapists) for arch pain.
There are a lot of great benefits to regularly exercising the foot, ankle and lower leg muscles. With the right attention to your feet, you will find arch pain much easier to manage or even prevent along with:
Stretching and strengthening the bottom of the foot, ankle and achilles tendon can help reduce stiffness all the way from your toes and the ball of your foot to the arch and heel. Start gently and keep the lower leg as relaxed as possible as you stretch.
You can always progress to a deeper stretch and range of motion, as long as it doesn’t aggravate your symptoms.
Pain in the plantar fascia, the thick ligament in the bottom of your foot, is one of the most common causes of foot arch pain. Having a way to stretch this area can give you great relief. The key with stretching the plantar fascia is to get the toes involved.
If you’re having trouble coordinating this move, you can bring your foot in your lap and gently stretch the toes and ankle back with your hands.
This simple exercise is great for getting the foot and ankle loosened up and moving. Particularly with plantar fasciitis, completing this before getting up in the morning can reduce common first step pain.
A general calf stretch always feels good with foot and/or heel pain. This is because they tend to get tight with pain, swelling, or any change in the way we’re walking or standing. You can always add a strong stretch to the bottom of the foot when you get the toes into extension, a win-win.
Using a calf stretcher can help you achieve similar results and a deep stretch in the foot, back of calf, and even up into the hamstring. Gently rock back and fourth to feel the stretch, but be sure to use a standing support to keep your balance or try this stretch seated.
The tibialis posterior muscle can be a cause of foot arch pain due to its role in supporting the arch. Try this stretch to keep the muscle loose.
Balanced strength of the lower leg is essential for tackling foot pain. This exercise addresses the calf muscles and deeper ankle muscles that help control the foot arch, such as the tibialis posterior.
When this exercise becomes too easy, you can increase repetitions or resistance. Then, when you feel comfortable and have adequate ankle control you can try standing heel raises too.
This is one of many options for strengthening the little muscles within the foot that naturally provide arch support. These muscles can be surprisingly hard to coordinate at first, so start slowly and focus on good form without cramping.
Additional options for addressing toe strength and the arch of your foot include marble pickup, walking in sand, and drawing the alphabet with your toes.
This exercise is similar to ankle pumps, but with the toes. The goal again is to promote circulation, toe range of motion and general strength. It’s also a good exercise to complete before getting up in the morning.
Massaging the foot before or after stretching and strengthening exercises is always a good idea. It warms up the area, boosts blood flow, and reduces the risk of onset of pain later on. There are a few simple ways to massage the arch of the foot.
With each of these exercises, the most important factor is your arch control. You should be able to keep your foot in an optimal position, without the arch collapsing, while completing any of these exercises. This will help promote better control and reduce onset of pain and injury.
The biggest contributor to foot arch pain is weight bearing activity, particularly when high impact. This is why all our recommended exercises are performed in non-weight bearing positions. Ultimately, what you are able to tolerate will depend on fitness level and coordination. Common exercises you should avoid with foot pain include:
These aggravating exercises aren’t completely off the table when it comes to your foot recovery. However, you may want to take some time to rest from these.
Having a regular foot exercise program is essential for managing and preventing unnecessary symptoms. These exercises are a great place to start as long as they don’t aggravate your foot pain. In most cases, this routine will make you feel gradually better within a matter of days or week.
If you aren’t sure where to start, you might consider scheduling a round of physical therapy. They can help address any underlying alignment, biomechanical, or coordination issues. If your symptoms don’t seem to be improving or getting worse, make sure you get in touch with a trusted medical professional, such as a physical therapist, podiatrist, or orthopedic doctor, for further medical advice.
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