Proper stretching before beginning any exercise regimen is both necessary and imperative. Stretching muscles means warming them up, and when properly warmed up, the strain on muscles, tendons, and joints is reduced.
Stretching exercises should last between 5-10 minutes and controlled in a stretch/hold/relax pattern without any bouncing or pulling. It is important to stretch the propulsion muscles in the back of the leg and thigh (posterior) as well as the anterior muscles.
Some effective stretching exercises to prepare and strengthen the foot and ankle include but are not limited to the following:
- Wall push-up: Face a wall from three feet away, with feet flat on the floor, and knees locked. Lean into the wall, keeping feet on the floor and hold for 10 seconds as the calf muscle stretches, then relax. Do not bounce. Repeat five times.
- Hamstring stretch: Put your foot, with knee straight and locked, on a chair or table. Keep the other leg straight with knee locked. Lower your head toward the raised knee until the muscles tighten. Hold to a count of 10 then relax. Repeat five times, then switch to the other leg.
- Lower back stretch: In a standing position, keep both legs straight, feet spread slightly. Bend over at the waist and attempt to touch the palms of your hands to the floor. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. Do not bounce.
Excessive tightness of the calf muscles can contribute to many foot and some knee problems. A key point of injury is the Achilles tendon, which attaches the calf muscle to the back of the heel. When the calf muscle tightens up, it limits ankle joint mobility.
Calf muscle stretching is very useful in the prevention and treatment of many foot problems. Two typical methods for stretching your calf muscles include the wall push-up (described above) and this technique: Standing approximately two feet from a wall. While facing the wall, turn your feet inward (“pigeon toed”) and lean forward into the wall, keeping your heels on the floor and the knees extended. Keep your back straight and don’t bend at the hips. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and do the stretch 10 times in a row.