Foot Strength For Runners

Most strength training routines for runners focus on leg and core strength. Foam rolling usually focuses on the calves and quads. But one area that is almost always overlooked by runners when doing strength and mobility work is the feet.

Sure, our feet are super important to us as runners, but our feet are usually wrapped in layers of foam and cushioning. Unless you are going out to run barefoot, why would our super-cushioned feet need to be particularly strong?

I’d never given it much thought myself until I started going to a weekly stretching class at a local gym (this was back when in-person classes were still a thing).

The class was an hour of stretching and foam rolling and was taught by a former ballet dancer. The entire class was done barefoot and while the content would vary each week, there was always a big chunk of time devoted to foot stretches our teacher learned back in his dancing days.

It felt amazing.

I also began to notice that my best runs of the week were Thursday (the day after class). If it had only happened once or twice, I would have written it off as a coincidence. But it happened nearly every time I went to class.

Ever since, foot stretching and strengthening has been a regular part of my workout routine.

I even keep a golf ball under my desk so I can roll my feet out while I work.

Foot Strength For Runners

While our feet are encased in foam during the run, that is actually part of the problem.

There are dozens of muscles in the human foot. These muscles work together to help stabilize your foot, ankle, leg and body after every step.

Those ultra-cushioned shoes can cause your feet to get a little lazy (not the technical, biomechanical term, but hopefully you get the idea) and become weak. That weakness can, in turn, create muscle imbalances or injury.

Foot Strengthening Moves

Add these moves into your workout routine (or do them at your desk, or while brushing your teeth) to strengthen your feet.

Towel Scrunches

Stand barefoot with one foot slightly in front of the other.

Keep your front knee slightly bent and place a towel underneath that front foot.

Keep your back knee straight.

Use your toes to scrunch up the towel, keeping the rest of your foot in contact with the ground.

Do 15-20 scrunches per foot.

Reverse your stance and repeat with the other foot.

Seated Toe Taps

Sit barefoot with your feet shoulder width apart.

Tap your toes, raising your toes as high and fast as you can without lifting the ball of your foot or your heels.

Do 25-30 taps per foot.

Hint: this move is best done with a great soundtrack.

Big Toe Lifts

Sit barefoot with your feet shoulder width apart.

While keeping all your other toes down, lift up your big toe.

Hold for two seconds while keeping the small toes relaxed.

Repeat 10-15 times.

Then, on the same foot, keep your big toe down while lifting the remaining toes.

Repeat 10-15 times.

Repeat both moves on the other foot.

Seated Stretch

Sit with one leg crossed over your other knee.

Use one hand to hold your ankle and the other to hold your toes.

Gently pull your toes backward until you feel a stretch in the bottom of your foot.

Hold for 10 seconds.

Repeat 5-10 times.

Repeat with the other foot.

Kneeling Stretch

Kneel on the floor with your toes curled under and sit back on your heels.

Rock side to side and forward and back on your curled toes to stretch the foot.

Hold for 20-30 seconds.

Trigger Point Release

Use a golf ball, lacrosse ball or Mobipoint to roll out your feet.

Check out this video from Health Magazine for guidance on using a lacrosse ball to release your feet.


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