If a new exercise routine is part of your New Year’s resolutions, make sure you don’t forget the important step of warming up before you work out. You may not realize it, but many of the common foot and ankle injuries that we see at Edmond Norman Foot & Ankle could be prevented if the patient took the time to stretch properly before exercising.
The joints, muscles and ligaments of your feet, ankles and lower legs endure excessive pressure and significant impact during most sports and exercise activities. Heel pain, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, and even ankle sprains and strains can all result if you don’t warm up adequately before and after exercising.
Below are some simple stretches that will limber up your ankles and leg. Follow a pattern of stretch, hold for 15-30 seconds and relax. Gradually increase the number of repetitions. Avoid bouncing and do not overstretch to the point where you are in pain.
- Towel Pulls: Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Using a towel (or a belt), place the ball of your foot in the towel and pull the ends toward you and flex the toes and forefoot towards your knee. Variation: try as you slowly lean back. When you feel a pull in your calf muscle, stop and hold it. Switch feet and repeat.
- Alphabet Ankles: Sit in a chair that’s high enough so that your feet do not rest on the floor. Using your big toe, trace every letter of the alphabet on the floor. Switch feet and repeat for a great ankle stretch in all directions.
- Step Drop Stretch: Using a step or curb, put the ball of one foot on the edge of the step and then slowly lower the heel, hold and release. If you need to, hold onto the railing to maintain your balance. Gradually dip the heel lower for a deeper stretch. Switch feet and repeat.
- Achilles Tendon Stretch: Stand an arm’s length away from a wall, then lean forward and place hands on the wall, shoulder-width apart. Extend the leg to be stretched to the back, keeping the knee bent and the heel flat on the floor and the other leg in front. Lean forward and gradually work your bent leg back until you feel the muscles in the back of your lower leg being stretched. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then switch legs.