Training For Your Toes – toe exercises – Brief Article

Simple toe-strengthening exercises help relieve foot discomfort and may prevent common foot problems.

We all know how to keep our biceps in shape, but few of us know how to keep feet and toes in good condition. Yet our feet–each containing 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles, and numerous tendons, nerves, and blood vessels–take significant abuse from the hours we spend on them each day. Not only do our feet carry us about 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day, they often do so crammed into shoes designed by a fashion sadist.

By the time middle age rolls around, we will have walked thousands of miles and may think it’s normal for our feet to hurt or develop unsightly lumps, bumps, or bends. Not so. Conditions like corns, calluses, bunions, and hammertoes aren’t a normal part of the aging foot. On the contrary, they’re proof that these compact biological masterpieces need a strengthening program of their own.

The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society recommends the following exercises to help strengthen toes and prevent foot discomfort. Dancers, runners, and, frankly, all shoe wearers will benefit from these simple exercises.

1. Toe Raise, Toe Point, Toe Curl Hold each position for five seconds and repeat ten times. Recommended for people with hammertoes or toe cramps.

2. Toe Squeeze Place small corks or toe guards between toes and squeeze for five seconds. Repeat ten times. Recommended for people with hammertoes or toe cramps.

3. Big-Toe Pulls Place a thick rubber band around big toes and pull the big toes away from each other and toward the small toes. Hold for five seconds and repeat ten times. Recommended if you have bunions or toe cramps.

4. Toe Pulls Put a thick rubber band around all your toes and spread them. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat ten times. Especially good if you have bunions, hammertoes, or toe cramps.

5. The Golf Ball Roll Roll a golf ball under the ball of your foot for two minutes. This is a great massage for the bottom of the foot and is recommended for people with arch strain or foot cramps.

6. Sand Walking Any chance you get, take off your shoes and walk in the sand at the beach. This not only massages your feet but strengthens your toes. Watch out for glass! Good for general foot conditioning.

7. Marble Pickup Place 20 marbles on the floor. Pick up one marble at a time and put it in a small bowl. Do this exercise until you have picked up all 20 marbles. Recommended for people with pain in the ball of the foot, hammertoes, or toe cramps.

8. Towel Curls Place a small towel on the floor and curl it toward you, using only your toes. You can increase the resistance by putting a weight on the end of the towel. Relax and repeat this exercise five times. Recommended for people with hammertoes, toe cramps, or pain in the ball of the foot.

Common Foot Problems

Only a tiny percentage of people are born with foot problems. Most conditions arise from neglect or simply not knowing how to care for your feet. Women are particularly vulnerable. They have about four times as many foot problems as men do, most of which come from wearing ill-fitting shoes. Here are common foot problems and how each is treated.

* Corns and calluses These are clumps of compacted, dead skin cells that build up from the pressure of bony areas of your feet rubbing against shoes. Corns form on your toes, and calluses grow on the soles of your feet. Don’t cut them off. Instead, place a piece of moleskin or pads on affected areas to relieve pain, and get better-fitting shoes. If that doesn’t work, you may need professional advice about surgery.

* Bunions These are misaligned big-toe joints that become swollen and painful. Although bunions tend to run in families, they can also be caused or aggravated by shoes that are too narrow. Wearing wider shoes may bring relief. Your doctor may also recommend medications or pads to help cushion the area and relieve pain. In moderate to severe cases, you may need surgery to realign the bones.

* Hammertoes These occur when toes become contracted into a clawlike position. The toe knuckle is usually enlarged and stiffens over time. Painful skin irritation and a corn may develop over the prominent joint. The deformity can be aggravated by wearing tight shoes or socks that cramp the toes. A special pad that fits inside your shoe may help; so may shoes and stockings with plenty of toe room. For more severe problems, surgery may be needed to relieve the pressure.

* Metatarsalgia This is pain in the ball of your foot, often caused by wearing high heels. The higher the heel, the greater the pressure on the ball of your foot. A three-inch heel, for example, exerts about 76 percent more pressure than a flat shoe. You can try a metatarsal pad to help relieve the pain, but it’s also a good idea to change shoe styles to low or flatter heels.

–Mayo Clinic Women’s Healthsource, June 1999

COPYRIGHT 1999 Saturday Evening Post Society

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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