When talking to other barefooters, we tend to agree that one of the most rewarding results from shedding our shoes is the increase in foot strength. Nevertheless, I find that, in addition to the natural muscular and structural development our feet acquire by our barefooting alone, it is also important to promote and maintain this development by exercising our feet regularly.
Here are 5 easy exercises you can do to help your feet get stronger. You can do these exercises at any time of the day and in no particular order. Remember; do all these exercises completely barefooted – no cheating with minimalist footwear of any kind!
1. Toe Towel Gather
Sitting down with your back straight and your legs in a 90º angle (making sure your heels are below your knees), place a small towel flat on the floor below your right foot. Keeping your heel on the floor, lift and extend your toes, then grasp the towel with your toes as you curl them to pull it towards you while you lift your arch. You will gather a bit of the towel with each toe curl. Repeat the motion at least 5 times. Re-set your towel and do another set with your left foot. Note: you might find that this exercise is easier to perform on hard floor, as opposed to carpeted floor.
2. Toe Curling
Sitting down with your back straight and your legs in a 90 degree angle (making sure your heels are below your knees), start with your right foot flat on the floor. Then, curl your toes towards you, making sure the base of your big toe (or sesamoid bone) stays in contact with the floor. This will force the arch of your foot to flex as well. Hold the curling position for 5 seconds, release and relax your foot. Repeat at least 5 times and then do another set with your left foot.
3. Heel Raise
Standing with your feet, shoulder-width apart, slowly raise yourself by lifting your heels. Hold the position for 5 to 10 seconds, then lower yourself slowly. Repeat at least 5 times. Remember to breathe out when your raise yourself and breathe in when your lower yourself.
4. Tip-toe Walking
Stand on your tippy-toes and just walk around for five minutes each day. Never let your heels touch the ground for the duration. Barefoot toe treadmill walking is a good alternative.
5. Lifted-toe Balancing
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and find your balance. Gently, shift your body weight to your left foot (without lifting your right foot yet). Lift your left toes off the floor, making sure your heel and the outer part of your sole are firmly pressing on the floor. Slowly, lift your right foot and balance yourself on your left foot, making sure your toes are still off the floor. Keep this position for at least 5 seconds, making sure you breathe normally and calmly. Slowly lower your right foot back to the floor and repeat the whole sequence by using your right foot. Be patient as this is a hard exercise to master. With practice, you will be able to do it for longer periods and more comfortably.
If you wish to see bigger versions of the exercise photos, please see my flickr photo set: Foot Exercises