Most athletes grasp the importance of stretching and warming up their muscles and joints before engaging in any kind of vigorous workout. Taking the time to do this can prevent many types of injuries—and avoid the setback in training that comes with an injury. If you’re an active person and you’ve ever had to wait around for an injury to heal, you know how frustrating it can be to see the gains you’ve made disappear while you’re waiting to get back into the game or onto the trail.
Active people, especially runners and those who play sports that involve running or jumping, commonly experience injuries involving the feet, ankles, and Achilles tendons. If you think about it, the feet and ankles support the entire body, while the ankles and Achilles tendons play an important role in nearly all movements made by the feet. So, you can see why it’s important to properly stretch your feet, ankles, and calf muscles before you head out for a run or start shooting hoops.
Below are some excellent stretches you can do help prevent injuries to your feet and lower legs. Remember, you’re warming up, so do these stretches carefully and gently.
Gastrocnemius muscle stretch. Stand facing a wall, about arm’s length away. Place your palms firmly on the wall and lean into the wall. Step forward with one foot, placing the foot on the ground and bending the knee. Keep the heel of your back foot rooted firmly on the floor. The toes of both feet should be facing forward. Push against the wall so that you feel the stretch in the calf muscle on the back leg. Hold for several seconds and then relax. Switch to the other foot and repeat. Do this twice on each side.
Step stretch. Stand on a step with your toes and the balls of your feet on the step and your heels hanging over the edge of the step. Carefully lower your heels until you feel a stretch along your calves.
Foot/Achilles stretch. Do this while sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Flex your ankles so that your toes are pointing toward the ceiling. Cup your hands around the bottom of your feet, just below the toes. If you can’t reach that far, try looping a towel around the bottom of your feet and grasp each end of the towel in your hands. Gently pull backward so that your toes and the top part of your feet move toward your shins. This will also stretch the muscles along the back of your leg.
If you are experiencing a problem with one (or both) of your ankles or your Achilles tendon(s), don’t ignore it. There’s a good chance the problem could grow worse. Instead, seek the advice of a foot and ankle expert.
For more information about keeping your feet and ankles healthy, or to schedule an appointment with one of our friendly Santa Fe podiatrists, call 505-982-0123. We also invite you to request your free copy of our Foot and Ankle Health Book. Just click on the View Details button on this page.