6 Simple Exercises for Foot Pain

I’m definitely familiar with foot pain. As a former distance runner, I know the ache of a post-20 mile trek. And as a clumsy person, I also know the pain of a sprain all too well. The exercises for foot pain below are ones that have helped me relieve my own foot pain from overuse or during injury recovery.

6 Simple Exercises for Happy Feet

Before doing any exercises like this, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or physical therapist, especially if you’re recovering from an injury. If your foot pain is caused by a sprain, for example, you don’t want to make things worse by exercising too soon. Check out some of the common causes of foot pain to see whether you need to talk to a doctor before doing these exercises.

Sometimes, the best thing to do when you’re experiencing pain is rest. With foot pain, try alternating warm and cold compresses to help reduce swelling. Resting with your foot elevated above your heart (propping it up on pillows, for example) can also help a lot.

These exercises relieve pain and some of them also strengthen your foot and ankle to help prevent further injury. Once you’re clear to exercise, they can be a big help! Listen to your body as you do the moves below, and if any of these exercises hurt, skip them. Better to take things easy than injure yourself and make your pain worse!

1. The Roller

This simple exercise is basically a DIY foot massage, and it feels amazing. You can buy fancy rollers online, but I’ll tell you a secret: a rolling pin or tennis ball from the thrift store works just as well. To practice, just sit on a chair with your feet on the floor. Place your right foot onto the roller, nestling it right under your arch. Gently move your foot back and forth, and let the roller give you a foot massage! You can do this for as long as you like. Repeat on the left side. The video above illustrates how to do this, plus some other self-massage you can do with a tennis ball.

2. Ankle Rotations

This is an exercise that my physical therapist (PT) prescribed after I sprained my ankle, and it’s great for stretching and strengthening the muscles in your feet and ankles. Just sit on the floor or on the couch with your legs straight out in front of you. Flex your feet, then rotate them clockwise, taking care not to move the rest of your leg. Only your feet should move during this exercise. Work up to 8-12 rotations. Repeat this exercise counter-clockwise.

6 Simple Exercises for Happy Feet

3. Balancing

Practicing your balance strengthens your foot muscles to prevent injury—this is another tip from my PT. To practice, just stand on one foot for as long as you can. If you need to use a wall to help you balance at first, that’s totally fine. Balance takes practice, so don’t worry if you can only stand on one foot for a few seconds at first. You’ll also find that you have better balance on one side. That’s fine, too.

4. Flex and Point

Sit on the floor again with your legs out in front of you, sitting up straight and tall. You can put your hands on the floor next to you, to help you sit up nice and straight. Flex your feet, pulling your toes toward you. If you can, let your heels come up off the floor. Let your feet go back to a neutral position, then point your toes down. Remember: if this hurts, back off. I know the video says to flex and point “as hard as you can,” but if you’re recovering from an injury, it’s better to listen to your body!

5. Stair Stretch

This was one of my favorite stretches when I was distance running. This stretch is for the calves, but it also really good on your poor feet. Stand on the bottom step of any set of stairs, placing just your toes and the balls of your feet on the steps, resting your hand on the banister or wall for balance. Let your right heel sink toward the floor until you feel a nice stretch in your foot. Hang like this as long as you like, then repeat on the left side. You can let both feet hang at once, but I wouldn’t do that until you feel really comfortable with this stretch.

6. Cobbler’s Pose

Cobbler’s Pose stretches the groin and thighs, but one hidden benefit it has is relieving foot pain. This was another one of my favorite stretches when I was distance running. To practice Cobbler’s Pose, sit on the floor with your knees bent and soles of your feet together. Hold onto your feet with your hands, sit up straight, and lean forward, bending at the waist with a straight back. Stay here as long as is comfortable.

Related:

Images via Thinkstock.

101 comments

Peggy B
Peggy B2 months ago

Pinned for future reference.

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John B
John B2 months ago

Thanks Michelle for sharing the tips.

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Nellie K Adaba
Nellie K Adaba8 months ago

Good for my flat feet.

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william Miller
william Miller9 months ago

thanks

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus10 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jim Ven
Jim V10 months ago

thanks for the article.

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Linda B.
Linda B10 months ago

Will definitely try the cobbler's pose! Thanks!

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Anne P.
AnneAWAY P10 months ago

Here's another good exercise to try: Elevate the affected foot and trace the alphabet letters, leading with your big toe. This gives the foot and ankle a really good workout. I broke my ankle in early 2015 and had to do months of physical therapy to repair torn ligaments. I still use this exercise when I get intermittent aches and pains.

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Angela K.
Angela K10 months ago

thanks

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Roxane Connor
Roxane Connor10 months ago

Found a nubby ball in the pet department that I use for "the roller"

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