According to a new study published in BioMed Research International Journal, strengthening “plantar short” foot muscles (the 10 little muscles that stretch from your heel to your toes) may help improve running performance and stave off injuries. Below are some exercises that you can do to help strengthen these muscles.
Standing Heel Raise
Two up, two down
Be sure to stay in control of the movement and go all the way onto your toes as long as this movement is pain-free.
Standing Heel Raise Progression
Two up, one down
Instead of lowering down both heels at the same time, remove one foot so that you are standing on the toes of one foot and lower down only with that one foot.
Repeat by going up with both feet, then down with one again.
Single-Leg Balance on Unstable Surface
Using an Airex pad or any other type of dense foam or slightly squishy surface. Simply stand on one foot and try to balance for at least 30 seconds.
Resisted Ankle Eversion and Inversion
This exercise requires a resistance band. Tie a small loop at the end of a three-foot elastic resistance band. Loop your foot into the hole. Begin by placing the center of the loop around the base of the big toe. Wrap the band so that you create a line of pull perpendicular to your leg from that point.
Begin with the foot rotated toward the little toe. Then, slowly move your foot out towards the big toe against the resistance without moving your knee. Gently return the foot to starting position with control—do not let the band whip it back. Repeat with the band set up the opposite way—with the loop around the base of the little toe and the band anchored to the opposite side
Stand in one place and set up cones in a “star” formation, with five cones in a circle around you. While balancing on one foot, tap each cone gently as you make your way around the “star.”
The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles are key muscles for propulsion and power. Squat jumps are a great exercise to strengthen these muscles while also strengthening the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
Squat on Balance Board
To perform, stand on a balance board or wobble board with one fulcrum of movement (medial to lateral or anterior to posterior). Bend your knees slightly to try and find stability, then perform 10 squats without letting either edge of the board touch the ground.