10 Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners + 5 Care Tips

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Foot strengthening exercises – what’s the point?

Well, if we ask ourselves as runners what our most precious asset is, what should our answer be?

Our feet. By far.

Our poor feet get abused day after day, training session after training session – and boy oh boy, are we good at neglecting them. Taking care of our feet gets thrown to the wayside, and we usually don’t notice how important it is until it’s too late.

Not only do we need to look after our feet to help with our running, but for every single activity that we take part in. From strength training to walking to doing the weekly shop and so many other daily activities, we rely on our feet every day.

So it’s about time we give our feet some much deserved attention and care, to keep them strong enough to handle what we demand of them through everyday. Yep, you guessed it – it’s time for some foot strengthening exercises.

In this article, we are going to discuss: 

  • The importance of foot strengthening exercises
  • The benefits of foot strengthening exercises
  • 10 excellent exercises to strengthen and mobilize our feet
  • 5 general tips to avoid foot pain 

Ready to get those feet into tip-top shape? 

Let’s jump in!

Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners

Why Are Foot Strengthening Exercises Important?

As runners, we know that in addition to our running training sessions, we need to include strength training, ideally two sessions per week, into our program.

Strength training is vital to strengthen our muscles and joints and save us from injury, but do we include our feet into this equation?

Usually not. 

We need to dedicate time to working our feet to improve strength and mobility and reduce the risk of injury. Hopefully, we have caught you before you have experienced any foot discomfort or injuries.

Plantar fasciitis, injuries to the Achilles tendon, ankle twists and sprains, and just plain old pain from overuse can hinder improvement and overall running enjoyment. 

As strength training your legs, glutes, and core contributes to minimizing the risk of injury from running, strength training your feet can also reduce the risk of these types of foot injuries. 

Related Article: Bob And Brad 721 Foot Massager Review

Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners

How do Foot strengthening Exercises Help?

Aside from significantly lowering your risk of numerous injuries, strengthening your feet can improve your actual running performance.

It can: 

  • Increase your mobility or range of motion in your ankles and feet, helping alleviate stiffness. 
  • Help avoid running with foot pain

Strengthening your feet takes time, and yes, it can be tedious. Still, it is an important part of an integrated training program to help improve your overall running and keep you healthy and strong. 

Let’s take a look at 10-foot strengthening exercises you can do to help you perform at your very best.

10 Foot Strengthening Exercises For Better Performance

Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners

#1: Heel To Toe Walking

First in our list of foot strengthening exercises, the heel to toe walking method strengthens the muscles in your feet and ankles while at the same time working ankle mobility

How to do it: 

  • Balance and walk on your heels for 20 steps.
  • Walk on your tiptoes for 20 steps. 
  • Repeat 5 times.

#2: Foot Extension and Flexion

This exercise will improve ankle mobility and strength. You will need a long exercise band or towel to perform it.

How to do it:

  • Loop the exercise band around your right foot while holding on to the ends. 
  • Extend and flex your foot against the resistance of the band. 
  • Repeat 10 times on each foot.
Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners

#3: Big Toe Press

This exercise will help strengthen your big toe, which is significantly needed for balance and arch stabilization. 

How to do it: 

  • Start in a standing position with your feet flat on the ground. 
  • Press your big toe into the floor while lifting your other four toes. 
  • Hold for 10 seconds. 
  • Repeat 10 times with each foot.

#4a: Toe Spread

This exercise allows toes to get accustomed to the correct splayed position while strengthening toe muscles simultaneously. This can improve your overall balance, which is especially great for trail runners, and toe and foot position in general

How to do it: 

  • Start in a standing position with your feet flat on the ground. 
  • Spread your toes apart as widely as possible. 
  • Hold for 10 seconds. 
  • Repeat 10 times on each foot. 

An alternative way to perform such foot strengthening exercises is with a rubber band as you become stronger.

Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners

#4b: Toe Spread with Rubber Band

How to do it: 

  • Place a rubber band around your toes. 
  • Stretch and spread your toes apart.
  • Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times on each foot.

#5: Towel Toe Curls

Number 5 on our list of foot strengthening exercises, towel toe curls will engage all the muscles in your feet and work the mobility in your joints

How to do it: 

  • Sit in a chair.
  • Place a small towel in front of you on the floor. 
  • Using your toes, pull the towel toward you. 
  • Push the towel back to its original position.
  • Repeat for 10 repetitions with each foot. 
Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners

Note: To make this exercise a bit more challenging, you can put a 1-2 pound weight on the other end of the towel.

#6: Moving Marbles

This exercise will strengthen your feet and help your mobility, coordination, and agility. 

How to do it: 

  • Place 20 small objects such as marbles or lego pieces on the floor in front of you.
  •  Place a plastic cup next to the objects. 
  • One by one, pick up the small objects with your toes and drop them into the cup. 
  • When all objects have made their way into the cup, dump them out and go with the other foot.

#7: Calf Raise to Toe Press

Next up on the list of foot strengthening exercises, this calf raise to toe press exercise will strengthen your toes and ankle stability and overall balance.

Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners

How to do it: 

  • Stand on the back edge of a step. 
  • Drop your heels below the level of the stair. 
  • Do a calf raise but continue to extend until you put pressure and weight onto your big toe. 
  • Repeat 10 times. 

The final two foot strengthening exercises focus on offering pain relief caused by the infamous plantar fasciitis.

#8: Plantar Chair Stretch

How to do it: 

  • Sit in a chair. 
  • Cross your right leg over your left, leaving your ankle sitting on your thigh.  
  • Using your hand, gently bend your right foot back toward your shin.
  • Hold for a few seconds. 
  • Repeat for 10 repetitions on each foot.
Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners

#9: Plantar Towel Stretch

How to do it: 

  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.
  • Place the towel around your right foot and hold the ends. 
  • Pull the ends of the towel and bring your right foot back towards you.
  • Hold for 10 seconds. 
  • Repeat 10 times on each foot.

Note: You can also use a long exercise band for this stretch, such as in the image below.

Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners

#10: Foot Rolling

How to do it: 

  • Find a hard ball such as a small exercise ball, a dryer ball or a golf ball.
  • Place the ball on the floor.
  • Roll the bottom of your foot on the ball.
  • Focus on putting pressure on any tight spots. 
  • Repeat for 60 seconds on each foot. 

Note: You can perform this exercise with a frozen water bottle to soothe and relieve pain from Plantar Fasciitis.

Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners

5 General Tips When Caring For Your Feet

In addition to working foot strengthening exercises into your routine, practicing these general care tips can also greatly improve the health and functioning of your feet.

#1: Don’t Skip Warm-Ups

Warming up is imperative to perform at your best during your training sessions and reduce the risk of injury.

Begin each of your training sessions with a 5-10 minute light jog followed by 5 minutes of dynamic stretching.

#2: Run Trail

If you are a road runner, take a break and head to the trails!

Running on uneven surfaces and tricky terrain will push you to work your feet in new and dynamic ways. Your stability, balance, and strength will automatically improve by sheer necessity when running in the mountains.

Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners

#3: Increase Mileage Gradually

If you jump from 40 kilometers a week to 60, then 80, your feet and entire body, for that matter, will feel it and hurt.

Be sure your training plan increases your training load gradually so your body can adapt to the change. This will also reduce your risk of serious injury such as stress fractures.

#4: Rotate Your Running Shoes

To help prevent injury, don’t use the same running shoes every day.

Each pair of running shoes has a different drop, width, fit, and height; the degree and placement of stress on your feet will vary. If possible, switch them up regularly.

#5: Put In The Time

Try not to skip any parts of your training plan.

Each element, the warm-up, cool down, stretching, weight training, sleep, nutrition, massage, physical therapy, and, you guessed it – foot strengthening exercises – every piece is essential. We need to respect each one and take the time to see them through.

Foot Strengthening Exercises 9

Now you’ve got Foot Strengthening exercises, time to work them into your training plan.

Have you got yours? Why not check out our free training plans below:

…and many more! Check them all out here.

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Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community, she is known for her ear-to-ear smile, even under the toughest racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

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