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Why and How You Should Strengthen Your Feet

If our feet are so vital when it comes to our running happiness, then why do so many triathletes mistreat them?

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Funny looking, typically sweaty, often stinky and yet, quite possibly the most important player on your running team. Those two humble warriors play such a big role in your running success that they should be treated more like your body’s royalty. Though some say running is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical, no one would disagree it’s 100 percent feet. Beyond pampering, taking care of your feet means keeping them healthy, which leads to keeping the rest of your body healthy. One of the most damaging things you can do is ignore your feet and ankles; if your feet aren’t strong and flexible enough to do their job, other muscles further up the chain have to compensate—doing work they are poorly equipped to perform. This often results in injury. Dedicating a little time to your foot and ankle health before and after every run will make a world of difference when it comes to your entire triathlete body staying happy, healthy, and strong. Here’s how to strengthen your feet.

3 Exercises to Do Before You Run to Strengthen Your Feet

Toe Tap

Standing in place, put one leg forward, and tap the ground with it. Lift your toes high then press them into the ground. Do this for about 1–2 minutes on each foot.

Heel Raise

Holding onto a wall, stand on one leg while slightly lifting the other off the ground. Slowly raise your heel up and back down, taking your time. Do this 5–10 times on each leg.

Ankle Rotations

Sitting on a chair, with one of your legs slightly off the ground, rotate your ankle clockwise 10-15 times, stop, then rotate it in the opposite direction, 10-15 times; switch legs.

3 Exercises for After Your Run and Off Days to Strengthen Your Feet

Therapy Band Foot Pulls

Attach the band to a stable object (e.g., the leg of a heavy table). Sit on the floor with both legs straight in front of you. Loop the band over the top of one foot, and ensure there is no slack in the band. Using just your foot, pull the band towards your body with your toe. Hold for a second, and then slowly release to the start position. Repeat 10 times on each foot.

Towel Crunches

Place a towel on the ground. While standing or sitting, with your heel on the ground, use just your toes to grasp the towel and crunch it towards your body. Your heel should remain on the ground throughout this exercise. Repeat 1–2 times for each foot.

Jumping Rope

Jump for 1–2 minutes at a time for up to 10 minutes. This is an easy way to work the muscles of your feet and legs all at once. Add jumping rope to your routine 2–3 times per week. Advance to jumping barefoot.

Jon Rankin is a world-class miler with a personal best of 3:54.24 who has recently launched Go Be More, a running apparel company with an inspirational message.