It's that time of year when we switch from our boots and closed-toed shoes, to flip-flops and sandals. Although this may prevent sweaty feet, it doesn't always make our feet feel better. In fact, changing shoe-wear dramatically, can negatively effect our feet and ankles. It can even lead to injuries like Achilles tendonitis or Achilles ruptures! Here are 3 exercises to prevent these injuries:
1. Calf Stretching: There are two muscles that form the Achilles tendon- the gastroc and soleus. Both should be stretched to keep the muscles flexible and decrease tension on the tendon. The first stretch is for the gastroc muscle. To complete this exercise, place one foot back, with heel on the ground, knee straight, and toes pointed straight ahead. The other foot should be placed in front with the knee bent. Hold for 30-60 seconds. The other muscle is the soleus. To complete this stretch, perform the exercise in the same manner, except bend both knees. Hold 30-60 seconds.
2. Eccentric Heel Lowering: This exercise helps strengthen and stretch the Achilles at the same time by challenging the muscle in lowering your body weight. The exercise sets should be increased over time. To complete this exercise, raise up on both sets of toes. Lift the right leg off the floor, and lower on the left slowly. Repeat 2 sets of 10, then switch sides. After a week, increase to 3 sets. After a week of 3 sets, increase to 2 sets of 15, and so on and so forth.
3. Side Stepping with Exercise Loop: The hip muscles are as important as the calf muscles in preventing injuries to the feet and ankles. By keeping the hips strong, you will lessen the force transferred through the ankle, help support the arch of the foot, and maintain a level trunk position. To complete this exercise, place an exercise loop around both ankles. Keeping the toes pointed forward, slightly bend your knees and side step. Focus on one side at a time and prevent any trunk leaning. Complete 2 sets of 20 in both directions.
For more information, visit www.saramikulsky.com or contact your local physical therapist.