It’s no surprise there’s an uptick in foot injuries come summer. You can strain your feet walking or running in the sand or even stepping on something sharp. But even switching from laced-up footwear to flat sandals can cause problems, because your feet aren’t prepared for the lack of support. “We see so many cases of plantar fasciitis (swelling of the tissue in the sole of the foot) and sprains at the start of summer,” says marathon runner and sports podiatrist, Marybeth Crane, DPM. “And it’s most often due to overuse — simply too much, too soon.”
Fortunately there are ways to strengthen, stretch and prep your feet for barefoot steps in the sand. Here, Crane offers a pre-beach warmup that can double as a strengthening session, along with some post-walk or run stretches, to soothe your soles.
1. TAKE A QUICK WALK
Step around your house barefoot for five minutes, to warm up and bring circulation into your feet.
2. DO YOUR ABCs
Take a seat and draw the alphabet with each foot, using your big toe as the ‘pen.’ Complete the alphabet one or two times with each foot. This move activates nearly every muscle in your foot.
3. SCRUNCH A TOWEL
This simple move strengthens the tiny muscles between your toes, which helps protect them from strains. Grab a dish or hand towel, and place it on the floor beneath your foot. Ideally, you can place the towel on a hard surface, like wood or tile, for easiest slip. Start scrunching the towel beneath your toes, pulling it completely toward you before switching feet and repeating on the other side. As you get stronger, graduate to a larger towel or repeat the scrunches three times.
4. WALK ON YOUR HEELS
Flex your feet and walk around your home on your heels for 30 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds and repeat three times. You’ll strengthen the muscle along the front of your shins, which helps stabilize your foot.
5. PERFORM DEEP SQUATS
Squat down while simultaneously lifting your heels, so you finish with your knees deeply bent and your weight balanced on your forefeet. Hold for 30 seconds, release and rest and repeat up to three times. This helps build the muscles along the soles of your feet.
6. BALANCE ON YOUR TOES
This move works your proprioception — which means, it helps your brain understand where your foot is in space — and literally strengthens all the small stabilizing muscles in your foot.
7. STRETCH YOUR CALF MUSCLES
Either lay on your back with a strap looped around your flexed forefoot, and draw your leg toward you, or lean up against a wall, with your foot behind you, pressing your heel toward the ground. Keeping your calf muscles pliable can help your foot move better with each stride.
READ MORE > 5 POST-RUN STRETCHES TO BOOST PERFORMANCE
8. ICE & ROLL
This feel-good treat helps reduce any inflammation generated from walking on sand’s unstable surface. (Read: This move helps stave off plantar fasciitis.) Fill a small plastic water bottle with water and freeze it. Roll it under your foot for a minute post-walk or run, or anytime your feet feel tired.
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