We spend a lot of time stretching our large muscle groups in preparation for exercises as athletes, but we'll wager you a hundred dollars that you've never stretched your feet.
"The feet are a critical component of the posterior chain," explains Dr. Andrew Yaun DC, CCSP, owner of Optimal Sport Therapy in Fairfield, Connecticut. "Tight ankles/feet generate a stiffer posterior chain, make it difficult to adapt to uneven ground, and may potentially cause injury."
In order to deliver sensory feedback to your body from the ground, the 33 joints in your feet should be able to move in many directions in addition to flexing and pointing. "This sensory component is lessened because we put on thick-soled shoes and essentially walk on artificial ground," Yaun explains. "The body adjusts to the pressures — or lack thereof — it is subjected to. This means that if you don't use it, you won't be able to get it back."
The good news is that you may substantially improve foot flexibility and reactivity, as well as the mobility of your entire posterior chain, in just three minutes. Yaun's preworkout techniques and stretches can help you flex your opposite side more effectively.
- Put yourself to the test: Remove your shoes and stand with your feet under your hips, knees straight but not locked, slowly folding forward to reach for the ground. Don't push yourself to stretch or bounce; simply go as far as you can and remember where you started.
- Spend 30 to 60 seconds rolling a lacrosse ball or tennis ball underneath each foot, hitting the heel, toes, arch, ball, and toes of the foot. Slowly move around the room, paying special attention to any painful or tight spots.
- Set the ball aside and hold one foot with both hands while sitting on the floor. Bending your toes back and forth, folding them down, spreading them out — anything you can do to promote mobility — manipulate your foot and ankle for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Stand up and spread your toes as far apart as you can with one foot at a time, holding for a few seconds. Rep three to five times more per foot.
- Re-examine yourself: Assume the same position you did for your initial test without undertaking any extra stretches. This time, how far did you get?
- Put on your shoes with running shoe insoles to improve the result and get ready to crush your workout!