When it comes to exercise to keep the body physically fit, the feet and toes should not be neglected. They are a complex network of bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tissues, and nerves that endures constant pressure and stress, making them susceptible to pain from injuries and general wear and tear.
Here are foot and toe strengthening and flexibility exercises suggested by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society to keep the feet and toes healthy and pain-free:
Toe squeeze: While sitting, place small corks between your toes, squeeze the toes and hold it for five seconds; repeat 10 times with each foot. This exercise is helpful for hammertoe and toe cramps.
Marble pick-up: First, sit down and spread 20 marbles across the floor in a small area. One marble at a time, pick up the marble using the toes and drop it into a bowl; finish all 20 marbles using one foot, then switch to the other foot. This exercise is helpful for hammertoe, toe cramps, and pain in the ball area of the forefoot.
Golf ball roll: To massage the bottom of the foot, roll a golf ball under the forefoot for two or more minutes while sitting; repeat with the other foot. This exercise is helpful for arch strain, foot cramps, and plantar fasciitis.
Toe raise, point, curl: While sitting, raise both feet onto the forefoot and hold for five seconds; point both feet onto the tips of the toes and hold for five seconds; finally, from a flat foot position, curl the toes of both feet under and hold for five seconds. These exercises are helpful for hammertoe and toe cramps. The toe curls are helpful for plantar fasciitis and shin splints as well.
Towel curls: This exercise is similar to the toe curl described above. While sitting, place a towel on the floor; use the toes of both feet to “pick up” the towel, curling it towards you; repeat five times, pausing in between each repetition for a rest. This exercise is helpful for hammertoe, toe cramps, and pain in the forefoot/ ball of foot area.
Toe pulls: Sit down and place a thick rubber band around all five toes; spread the toes and hold for five seconds, repeating the exercise 10 times; switch feet and do it again with the other foot. This exercise is helpful for bunions, hammertoe, and toe cramps.
Big toe pulls: In a seated position, put the two big toes next to one another and put a thick rubber band around both of them; pull them apart in a motion to separate them, moving each toe toward the little toes; hold the position for five seconds and repeat 10 times. This exercise is helpful for bunions and toe cramps.
In addition, walking barefoot on the beach provides the feet with a massage. Taking a stroll on the sand works out and strengthens the feet and toes.