For Healthy Aging, Strengthen Your Feet

Everything is connected in life—even in our bodies. That means we shouldn’t overlook any part of our bodies when it comes to health, including our oft-neglected feet. In fact, our feet could be considered the foundation of our physical wellness, particularly as we age.

We all know that our feet are important for walking and running, but you may not realize how immensely complex they are. Each foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 different muscles, tendons and ligaments, all wrapped in a thick, connective material known as fascia. They are arguably one of the most anatomically complex structures in the human skeletal and muscular system—and yet our little tootsies don’t get a lot of TLC (beyond the occasional half-hearted foot rub).

But when your feet hurt or aren’t functioning properly, it affects your entire life. Even something as simple as a bunion or plantar fasciitis means you can’t get around as you normally could. Discomfort gradually moves up the body, eventually stiffening and restricting mobility in the knees, hips and even lower back.

One weak little foot muscle or joint can actually throw off the biomechanics of your entire body, causing pain in the feet and beyond. If you don’t address this as you age, it can cause a gradual deterioration of your entire posture and gait, which is tough to recover from.

Day off!

I can’t overstate the importance of the feet. Beyond affecting posture, fitness and energy, one 2017 study actually linked toe flexor strength to blood pressure, sleep quality and even body composition. Another actually linked poor toe strength to type 2 diabetes (of course, this doesn’t indicate causation).

How to Strengthen Your Feet

Feet are foundational to our good health, so here’s how to keep your feet healthy throughout your life.

Keep up some basic exercises.

It’s important to keep your feet as fit as the rest of your body. Do regular heel dips, stretch your calf muscles and practice scrunching a towel together underneath your toes. You can even use a Thera-Band to provide slight resistance to really strengthen your little piggies. Here are some great band exercises to get you started:

Show your tootsies a little love.

Your shoulders aren’t the only body part that craves a little tenderness. Self-massage is crucial for your feet. Use a massage ball to roll along the arch and toes to work out all the nooks and crannies of your foot. If you find a particularly tight or sensitive spot, hold the ball there until the discomfort lessens. Then, make small micro circles on that area to address any remaining nearby tightness.

You can also thread your fingers through your toes and shake hands with your sole. Wring the toes out, make figure eights with your ankle and explore the full range of motion of your toes to ensure they are functioning at full mobility.

Reflexology Thai massage!

Be smart with your footwear.

To encourage foot health, spend as much time as you can barefoot. This allows your foot to move completely through its natural range of motion during daily tasks, like walking.

We all have to wear shoes sometime, so when you do, be cautious. Shoes with lifted heels, like high heeled boots and most conventional running shoes, actually shorten your calf muscles and cause your feet to behave in ways they weren’t designed to—which could be harmful over time. While wearing heels is fine on occasion, try to find a zero-drop shoe (or close to zero) for daily wear. (But on that note, flip flops, although zero drop, aren’t great either. They cause your toes to grip as you walk, which can further tighten and stiffen your feet.)

Opt for shoes with plenty of toe room (width-wise), a low heel and minimal cushioning, if you can. This will help get your feet reacquainted to the ground and strengthen them over time.

Stop neglecting your feet. If you start taking care of them now, they will continue to serve you well into old age—significantly boosting your quality of life. So what are you waiting for? Get reacquainted with your sole!

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Images via Getty

88 comments

Michael Friedmann

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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R4 days ago

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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R4 days ago

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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R4 days ago

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Kevin B
Kevin B16 days ago

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Hristina B
Hristina B18 days ago

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Olivia M
Past Member 20 days ago

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Tania N
Tania N22 days ago

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Tania N
Tania N22 days ago

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Sonia Minwer Barakat Requ
Sonia M23 days ago

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