The average runner lands about 5,000 times on each foot during a one-hour run. Their feet, on the other hand, can absorb 2-3 times their body weight with each stride. Considering these things, it’s easy to assume that runners have very strong feet.
The truth is that most runners only develop those muscles required for running. Without proper exercise, the other small muscles can become weak and this can spell disaster. Weak foot muscles put runners at increased risk of incurring common running injuries, such as sprained ankles, shin splints, plantar fasciitis and problems with the Achilles tendon.
Since the feet provide the balance and power they need to run, runners should take the time to stretch and strengthen them. Here are some workouts for runners that can help:
Going barefoot surprisingly strengthens foot muscles and is a brilliant way to build up your fitness. Removing the support offered by running shoes forces the stabilizing muscles in your feet to work harder.
Start by going barefoot indoors and practice standing and walking on the balls of your feet. Gradually progress to walking barefoot outdoors but take care and go slowly at first. As your feet become more stable, gradually increase your range of activities to include jumping and running.
Toe And Heel Walks
Walking on tiptoe helps improve your balance and strengthen the foot muscles. This is best done when barefoot to really work your ankles and the small muscles of your feet.
To tiptoe, simply balance your weight on the toes and balls of your feet with your heels touching the ground. For heel walking, reverse this position and lift your toes off of the ground instead.
Spend a minute or two walking around in both positions before going back to your normal walking posture. Both exercises force more calf and shin muscle engagement, making them stronger.
Having shoes on all day can compress your toes in a space that’s too narrow for them to move. This often causes problems with the adductor and abductor muscles which can prevent you from easily spreading your toes.
To make sure that doesn’t happen, one of the best workouts for runners you can do is toe abduction. Start by standing barefoot, with your feet flat on the floor.
Shift your weight to your heels so you can easily lift your toes. Then, spread your toes as far from each other as they can before relaxing them again. Aim for 3 sets of 10 repetitions with rests in between. Repeat this exercise 2-3 times a day until the motion comes effortlessly.
Deceptively simple, this exercise involves placing an object, like a towel, on the floor then using your toes to pull it towards you. You can be creative with this exercise as long as the objects you choose can be picked up or pulled by your toes.
This exercise targets the intrinsic foot muscles (those inside the foot) as well as the front shin muscles.
Endurance athletes are familiar with the benefits offered by high-intensity interval training (HIIT). However, your calf muscles need to be strong first before you can enjoy the advantages of doing the exercise.
To work your calves, stand on the edge of a step and allow your heels to drop below the step’s level. Push up to the balls of your feet and hold this position. You should feel the pull on your calf muscles.
Bent-Knee Wall Stretches
Bent-knee wall stretches target the soleus muscle deep in the calves. To perform this exercise, begin by placing your palms flat against a wall and stand with one leg forward and one leg back.
Slowly bend your legs, lower yourself into a “seated” position and lean into the wall until you feel the muscles in your back calf stretching. Hold this position for 30 seconds then switch legs.
Using Resistance Bands
Take an exercise band and fasten one end to a secure point, like a bedpost or table leg. Sit with your legs extended in front of you then loop the other end of the band around the top of your foot, just below your toes.
Keeping your legs straight, pull this foot towards you. Once you’ve gone as far as you can, relax and return to your starting position. Several reps of this will gradually strengthen the Achilles tendon.
Foot strength is vital for runners hoping to increase their speed and endurance. Including these workouts for runners in your routine can give you that much-needed edge over your competitors.