Foot Exercises

Foot Exercises for Pain-Free Feet

“Her feet are killing her; I call it shoe-icide…” When Fabolous rapped those lyrics in “You Be Killin’ ‘Em,” women everywhere LOL’d to the witty quip, and to the fact that it’s so true. Women will put up with foot pain for a pair of cute shoes.

Some types of fashionable shoes, like high heels and even flats, don’t give your feet the proper support and balance they need. These types of shoes can cause foot ailments like bunions and hammertoes. But since we know you aren’t letting go of your beloved stilettos, here are some foot exercises you can do to keep your feet healthy and pain-free.

Toe Stretches

If your toes have been confined in shoes all day, you may experience toe cramps. To ease the pain, the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) suggests heel raises. Start by standing upright, raising yourself up to the balls of your feet and holding for at least 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Those of you with less than great balance can hold onto a door frame for support.

Narrow shoes have your toes in a bunch? “You can do exercises to help strengthen the toes,” said Dr. Nathan Lucas, Memphis-based podiatrist who created Pretty Toes Fade-n-Cover along with his wife, a licensed aesthetician. Dr. Lucas said to try picking up marbles or grasping towels with your toes to strengthen your toe muscles.

While you’re watching TV, you can also strengthen feet and alleviate distress by placing foam toe separators (like the ones you use for a pedicure) between your toes and squeezing them at 5-second intervals, suggests the APMA.

Calf & Heel Stretches

Stretching your calf and Achilles tendon can prevent heel spurs, said Dr. Jean Archer of Eden Spa Foot Care in New York. “It helps to stretch the ligaments and the muscles in the bottom of the foot, and by [the calf and Achilles tendon] being more flexible, they’re less likely to be strained or cause strain to surrounding structures in that area,” she said.

First, sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Loop a towel around your feet so that when you pull the towel toward your body, you feel the stretch in your calf muscles. Hold for 30-second intervals and then rest. Repeat until you feel nice and flexible.

“We often see women that wear high heels that have what we call tight heel cords,” said Dr. Lucas. “The higher the heel, the shorter the heel cord [Achilles tendon], so you want to do heel exercises to help stretch out the heel cord.” To do so, lean forward against a wall while putting one leg behind you, then pushing your heel down toward the ground.


“There’s nothing like a good foot massage to relax the muscles,” said Dr. Lucas. He says a weekly foot massage is suitable for maintaining healthy feet, but depending on your activity level or amount of discomfort, more or less frequent might be appropriate.

If you don’t have anyone to massage your feet for you, place a small ball, like a golf ball, under your foot and roll it back and forth with light pressure. This exercise is perfect for treating heel pain, cramps or arch pain, said the APMA. To massage and ice sore feet at the same time, roll a frozen bottle of water under your foot.

Jan F. Lee 3-30-2011 / APMA News 3-30-2011