Foot Exercises for Better Speed Training

STACK Expert Z Altug prescribes a series of foot exercises to keep your feet healthy and ready for speed training.

Speed training exercises can really do a number on your feet. That's because the asymmetrical movement patterns they use—such as running curves and unilateral plyometric jumps and drills—can create muscle imbalances throughout the body that put extra weight on your feet.

Often, foot exercises are overlooked in the training and recovery phases of conditioning. Here are some corrective exercises, which you can perform with or without shoes, to help restore symmetry and balance in your feet and reduce recovery time.

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Foot Exercises

Speed training exercises can really do a number on your feet. That's because the asymmetrical movement patterns they use—such as running curves and unilateral plyometric jumps and drills—can create muscle imbalances throughout the body that put extra weight on your feet.

Often, foot exercises are overlooked in the training and recovery phases of conditioning. Here are some corrective exercises, which you can perform with or without shoes, to help restore symmetry and balance in your feet and reduce recovery time.

Warm-up

Foot exercises focusing on mobility should be performed in a controlled manner with symmetrical movement patterns on each side.

Multi-Directional Stepping

Sets/Reps: 1x10 each side

Purpose: Warm up your feet, knees and hips.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Step forward with your right foot and return to the starting position.
  • Step forward diagonally and return to the starting position.
  • Step sideways to the right and return to the starting position.
  • Step diagonally backward to the right and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat the entire sequence on the left

Foot Rockers

Sets/Reps: 1x10

Purpose: Warm up your ankles.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Partially bend both knees, allowing your heels to lift slightly.
  • Straighten both legs, allowing your toes to lift slightly

Windshield Wipers

Sets/Reps: 1x10 each side

Purpose: Warm up your ankles.

  • Sit with both feet flat on the ground without shoes.
  • Place both hands on your knees to keep them from moving side to side.
  • Slowly glide your right foot in and then out along the ground.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Look for symmetry of movement bilaterally for in and out movement.

Lower-body balance and agility

Foot exercises focusing on balance should be performed in a controlled manner with symmetrical movement patterns on each side.

Wobble Board 

Sets/Reps: 1x10 each movement pattern

Purpose: Improve mobility in your ankles, strengthen your foot muscles and improve multi-directional balance.

  • Stand near a solid object for support.
  • Place both feet on a round wobble board.
  • Slowly move the board forward and back.
  • Slowly move the board side to side.
  • Slowly move the board clockwise, then counterclockwise.

Try above movement patterns on one leg

Multi-Directional Hop and Hold

Sets/Duration: 3x5-second holds in each dot

Purpose: Strengthen your foot muscles and improve multi-directional balance.

  • Stand on foot-sized circular plastic (or a chalk outline) dot.
  • Space out multi-colored dots (or draw chalk outlines) around you so they are within a short hopping distance.
  • Hop and balance on your right leg, then hop to another dot and hold on the left side.
  • Once you have completed 5 hops to each dot with each foot, take a break.
  • Repeat for 2 additional sets.

Foot strength

Foot exercises focusing on strength should be performed in a controlled manner with symmetrical movement patterns on each side.

Towel Scrunches 

Sets/Reps: 2x10 each side.

Purpose: Strengthen your foot muscles.

  • Sit with both feet flat on a towel on the ground (preferably on a smooth floor like linoleum or wood) without shoes.
  • Slowly scrunch up the towel in front of your right foot.
  • Use a stick to straighten the towel.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • If the movement is too easy, place a shoe at the end of the towel for some light resistance.

Single Leg Calf Raise

Sets/Reps: 2x10 each side.

Purpose: Strengthen your foot muscles.

  • Stand near a solid object for support.
  • Slowly perform a Single-Heel Raise.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Slow Motion Run

Sets/Reps: 2x10 each side

Purpose: Strengthen your foot and core muscles.

  • Stand on your right leg with your left arm by your hip and your left knee above your hip.
  • Hold your right hand at shoulder height.
  • You should look like you are sprinting in place.
  • Lower your left foot slightly behind you (but do not allow it to touch the ground) and your right hand toward the ground while your left arm goes up.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Foot flexibility

Foot exercises focusing on flexibility should be performed in a controlled manner with symmetrical movement patterns on each side.

Gactrocnemius stretch

Sets/Duration: 2x30 seconds each side

Purpose: Stretch your ankle muscles.

  • Lean against a solid object (like a railing at a stadium or bleacher steps).
  • Place one foot on the second step and the other foot behind you on the floor.
  • Keep both feet pointed forward and your upper body straight.
  • Slowly lean forward at your hips to feel a stretch in the front of your hip and calf muscle.
  • Repeat on the other side

Soleus stretch

Sets/Duration: 2x30 seconds each side

Purpose: Stretch your ankle muscles

  • Lean against a wall with one foot in front of the other, like in a step stance.
  • Keep both feet pointing straight ahead.
  • Slowly bend both knees.
  • Feel the stretch in the Achilles tendon of your back leg.
  • Switch feet and repeat on the other side.

Plantar fascia stretch

Sets/Duration: 2x30 seconds each side

Purpose: Stretch your foot muscles.

  • Hold onto a solid object and place the majority of your weight on one leg.
  • Slowly lift the heel of your opposite foot to where there is some pressure on the great toe and forefoot.
  • You should feel a stretch in your arch.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Shin stretch 

Sets/Duration: 2x15 seconds each side

Purpose: Stretch your shin muscles.

  • Hold onto a solid object and place the majority of your weight on one leg.
  • Slowly point your toes on the non-weight-bearing leg.
  • You should feel a stretch in your shin muscles.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Restorative foot massage 

Perform the following massage techniques to relieve overall body stress, increase circulation in the feet and restore the feet for your next training session. Happy feet mean better training.

Foot massage roller 

Time: 1 minute on each foot

Purpose: Stretch your foot muscles and relieve foot tension.

  • Sit and slowly roll a small cylindrical massage roller (smooth or with soft spikes) up and down under your foot.

Spiky ball

Time: 1 minute on each foot

Purpose: Stretch your foot muscles and relieve foot tension.

  • Sit and slowly roll a soft, spiky ball up and down your foot, then side to side under all parts of your foot.

Golf ball 

Time: 1 minute on each foot

Purpose: Stretch your foot muscles and relieve foot tension.

  • Sit and slowly roll a golf ball up and down your foot, then side to side under all parts of your foot.

Toe mobility

Time: 1 minute on each foot

Purpose: Improve mobility of your toes and relieve foot tension.

  • Sit and cross one leg so your ankle rests on top of your knee.
  • Slowly apply lotion to your foot and carefully slip a finger between each toe (little finger on little toes side).
  • Slide fingers down only to comfortable level. Don't force it.
  • Slowly bend your toes down and up with a slight outward pull to massage and mobilize the toes.

Further information

Here are some sources for additional information about the foot and ankle and athletic shoes.

American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society
American Podiatric Medical Association

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Defective Shoe - Bruce R. Wilk,PT, OCS
Stephen M. Pribut, DPM

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: STRETCHING | SPEED DRILLS | MOBILITY | MASSAGE