In this video, Dr. Ray McClanahan, a sports podiatrist at Northwest Foot and Ankle and the inventor of Correct Toes, answers the following question:
What are your favorite ways to strengthen intrinsic foot muscles?
Dr. Ray notes that the intrinsic foot muscles (aka plantar arch muscles) are a group of muscles that originate at the heel bone and attach to the toes. He also emphasizes the importance of properly aligning the toes to the position that nature intended before (or while) strengthening the intrinsic foot muscles. Realigning the toe bones—to help the intrinsic foot muscles do their best work—is step #1 in strengthening the plantar arch muscles. Performing intrinsic foot muscle strengthening exercises when the toes are misaligned only serves to strengthen the misalignment. Dr. Ray also explains how Correct Toes and men's and women's foot-healthy footwear can help restore proper toe alignment and assist in strengthening intrinsic foot muscles.
The two exercises that Dr. Ray recommends and demonstrates in this video are:
The Hacky Sack Grab Exercise: An exercise that can be modified in several ways to target specific intrinsic foot muscles.
Why Perform These Exercises?
Both exercises are important because they help restore the proper tension and balance between foot and toe flexor and extensor muscles. Wearing conventional shoes for prolonged periods can, over time, cause the foot and toe flexor muscles (the muscles that act on the bottom of the foot) to become weak and elongated while the foot and toe extensor muscles (the muscles that act on the top of the foot) become strong and short. The two exercises demonstrated in this video help strengthen the weak muscles and stretch the tight muscles to encourage a healthier muscle/tendon balance in the foot.
Other benefits of these exercises include:
Improved foot arch strength
Improved lower leg stability
Improved ability to absorb impact during gait
Improved balance and weight distribution across the foot
Everyone can benefit from performing these exercises, though these exercises may be particularly helpful for individuals with flat feet or ball of foot pain, or for individuals who have worn conventional footwear for many years (or decades) and need significant foot rehabilitation.
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Dr. Marty Hughes is a chiropractic physician, or DC. He received his doctoral degree from Western States Chiropractic College (WSCC), now known as the University of Western States (UWS). Dr. Marty has always been interested in foot health, due to the connection between the feet and the spine. He has worked as a freelance writer for LiveStrong.com, for whom he contributed over 2,200 health-and-fitness articles. He is a co-founder of Natural Footgear and an ardent supporter of natural foot care approaches. Dr. Marty enjoys road cycling, hiking, canoeing, and cross-country skiing as well as exploring the mountains of Western North Carolina.