Ok before you just yawn and click out of this page, hear me out! Pilates is known for strengthening the core, but it also can work wonders for your feet. If the eyes are the gateway to the soul, the feet are the gateway to your physical being. Foot health can relate to the health of you back, hips, knees and necks. How we stand on our feet can impact how we balance on our pelvis up through our spine. Not only that how we use our feet can impact how we use our core!
Without going into the hugely specific anatomy of the foot, let me give you a brief overview. The talus is the main bone of the foot that receives the weight from our tibia in our leg and then depending on how we move the weight is spread throughout the foot into our medial arch (inner foot) and lateral arch (outer foot). Because many of us pronate or collapse the medial arch, the weight from the tibia is not evenly distributed through the foot. This causes the talus to be pulled out of its neutral position, which causes the femur in the leg to roll in, which causes the pelvis to be pulled anteriorly. So this seemingly small problem with your foot actually pulls the entire body out of alignment and can lead to pain and other issues in the body.
And, let’s be honest, the feet can have a whole host of problems themselves. Poor fitting or unrealistic shoe shapes (stilettos anyone??) can cause foot pain. Additionally, hereditary problems and injuries such as fallen arches, bunions, foot cramps and more can cause pain in the feet.
So, what to do about this? Pilates of course! There are tons of strengthening, stretching and alignment workouts solely focused on the feet as part of the pilates repetoire. Even if you are not a huge pilates fan, give a few of these exercises a try and you will notice a difference.
While scheduling a “foot day” is probably not a high priority for most people in terms of their workout schedules, let me see if I can convince you to add on some foot work to your stretches, yoga or pilates routine. You don’t need a lot of time but a few exercises can drastically improve your posture and the way your feet and the rest of your body feels!
For this workout you’ll need a bit of equipment.
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I like to start out with a massage of the feet using massage balls. If you don’t have massage balls, you can always just use a tennis ball but the massage balls have little spikes on them that feel so nice on the bottoms of your feet. Just place the ball under the ball of the foot and start rolling it under the ball of the foot. Repeat rolling the ball under the middle of the foot and then under the heel. Then roll the ball the entire length of the foot. Notice how much more relaxed you feel! Repeat on the other foot.
For the next set of exercises we are going to use a tennis ball. This is actually a fantastic pilates hack to use a tennis ball instead of a foot corrector device. It will still help strengthen and stretch your feet! Place the ball of one foot on top of the tennis ball keeping the heel on the floor. Curl your toes around the ball, grabbing the ball with your toes. Release and repeat 8x. Repeat on the other foot.
Place the tennis ball underneath your heel keeping your toes on the floor. Press your heel into the ball then release it back up. Repeat 8x then switch to the other side.
Tennis Ball Roll
Place the tennis ball under the ball of your foot and roll the ball all the way back to your heel and then back forward again. Continue rolling until your foot feels relaxed then switch to the other side.
Side Ball Roll
Place the ball under the ball of the foot and this time roll the ball side to side to release the underside and sides of the foot.
Big Toe Lift
Stand with all ten toes on the floor and the four corners of the feet pressing into the floor. Keeping your toes and outer edges of the foot on the mat, lift the big toes up trying to keep the other toes pressing down into the mat. Lower the big toe and repeat 8x.
Ten Toe Lift
Stand with all ten toes on the floor and the four corners of the feet pressing into the floor. Keeping the sides of the feet on the floor, lift all ten toes off the floor keeping them flexed. Lower the toes back down and repeat 10x.
Grab the Sand
Start with all ten toes on the floor, pressing the four corners of the feet into the floor. Scrunch your toes up like you are grabbing a big hunk of sand with your toes. Lift your toes off the floor like you are dumping the sand back out onto the ground. Then lower your toes down. Repeat 8x.
Start standing with one foot in front of the other pressing the toes into the floor with slight flexion in the toes. Lift your toes off the floor, pushing the foot to hover in the air before allowing it to come back down. Repeat 8x then switch sides.
Start standing in parallel with the toes pointing forward and the heels directly behind the toes. Press all four corners of the feet into the floor. Slowly lift the heels off the floor rising up onto your toes. Repeat 8x.
Point & Flex
Start in a seated position using the resistance band. Place the band all the way over the tops of the toes so that the toes are not peeking out. Hold the band in each hand. Push into the band as you point your toes and then resist against the band as you flex the foot back up. Repeat 8x then switch sides.
Magic Circle Press
Sit on the floor with a Pilates Magic Circle on the floor in between your legs. Place one foot on each pad of the circle. Press in on the circle with both feet, keeping the entire foot in contact with the circle. Release the circle and repeat 8x.
Sit in a chair with the towel on the floor laying flat. Place your feet at the edge of the towel. Scrunch your toes grabbing the towel with your toes. Allow your toes to relax and notice how your feet have moved forward on the towel. Scrunch your toes again grabbing the towel with your toes. Repeat until you have scrunched all the way to the top of the towel.
Hopefully these exercises will leave your feet feeling more relaxed, flexible and in proper alignment. Regularly doing these exercises or even some of them will help increase your foot strength and counteract some of the pressure we put on our feet everyday!