Strong Feet


Strong Feet

It’s an easy area to forget when we exercise or train at the gym. We'll often spend time on the big muscle groups or work on our core and back through pilates and yoga, but training our feet to become stronger and more mobile is arguably just as important.

Stronger feet can reduce the chance of becoming injured, improve ground reaction forces during your golf swing and enable you to cope with the demands of walking for 5 hours on the links every weekend, hopefully with less fatigue and discomfort. And the benefits extend beyond the golf course.

These are my top 5 go-to exercises you can add to your current exercise routine or perform at home to build strong feet. I recommend these exercises on a daily basis at the Podiatry clinic, for patients who are suffering from a foot injury such as plantar heel pain, people who want to alleviate the discomfort of narrow, higher-heeled shoes, or anyone who is suffering from discomfort when walking long distances.

To be honest, if you're already going to the gym, spending 10 minutes on these 5 exercises is such an easy addition to your routine.  

Calf Endurance

There are 2 muscle groups to engage when building calf endurance.  The idea here is to improve the capacity of the lower leg and foot to withstand higher loads and reduce the chance of injuries such as calf strains and heel pain.

I like to split this up into 2 exercises.  Gastrocnemius (straight knee) and Soleal (bent knee) exercises. Most people can work through a few straight knee calf raises. Push up high through the ball of your foot keeping that knee straight and hip stable.  Build up to 3 sets of 30 repetitions looking to fatigue the muscle without causing pain.

The modified bent knee calf raise is much harder and works the Soleus. A muscle that doesn't get much kudos.  Those big calf diamonds we call the baby cows get get all the attention. The Soleus plays an important role in keeping us upright and providing forward propulsion when we walk or run.  This exercise sets up in a similar position, but start with a slight bend through your knee and hip.  Maintain this level of bend and push up onto the ball of the foot through your ankle.  Lowering down to the starting position.  Feeling it yet?  Again, building up to 3 sets of 30 reps. You may only get through a few reps at the start before the Soleus fatigues.

A simple 30 second calf stretch after each set is recommended.  This exercises just uses your own body weight, but you can add extra weight with kettlebells or dumbells.  You could also modify these exercises to be performed on a leg press machine.

Calf EnduranceCalf Endurance

Toe Gripping

Let's work on those little muscles in your arch. You have a range of deep muscles that originate from the calcaneus (heel bone) and attach to your big and lesser toes.  

This simple exercise, if performed correctly, will really work these smaller intrinsic foot muscles. You feel some added benefits through posterior chain into your calf and long flexor muscles.

Roll up a towel so that is round enough for your toes to grip. Start by standing tall, with just your toes on the towel.  Lean forward from your ankles, keeping your knees and hips aligned. Hold for 2-3 seconds without touching the wall.  Allow your toes to grip to keep you from falling forward.  Return to the starting position.

3 sets of 30 toe grips is a great volume to work towards.  You may not get there first go, but the idea is to work those arch muscles till fatigue. Ensure you get those toes gripping onto the towel.  You should notice the arch muscles and inner calf muscles working to hold the forward lean.  

Toe GrippingToe Gripping

Ankle Mobility

Most of us have been told before or intrinsically understand we have tight calf muscles - your gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. It's no secret that if these muscle are tight and irritable, they impact ankle joint range, increase load through the forefoot and heel and limit the ability of your foot and leg to work as a shock absorber.  We'll get to work on both the calf muscles that cross the knee and ankle with a straight knee and bent knee version.  Aim to hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds and repeat 3-5 times  on each leg.

Ankle MobilityAnkle Mobility

Wild Toes

These training kits are superb. Designed to be worn for 15-30 minutes each day, they’ll help to improve toe alignment and ease discomfort associated with wearing tight tapered shoes. Engaging and strengthening intrinsic foot muscles whilst improving toe mobility. Each kit has a QR code which can be scanned to access a range of exercises utilising Wild Toes. These kits are the antidote to narrow footwear that cramp your toes.  

Wild Toes Training Aids Single Leg Balance

A seemingly simple exercise, but one that can help with foot, knee and hip mobility.  How long can you balance on one leg?  If you can hit the 60 second mark, make it harder by standing on a cushion or rolled up towel. Adding a squat component or balance beams can be a fun way to progress the degree of difficulty whilst making it fun and interesting. Always have something to grab onto if you overbalance, like a chair or bench.

One Leg  BalanceOne Leg Balance

If you’re going to invest your time and energy to strengthen your feet, you may as well support that effort with the appropriate footwear.  Are they helping or hindering how your feet perform? Do they let your toes spread out and interact? Naturally wider shoes will let your toes work as intended. 

Whilst these exercises can help with your golf mechanics and help you you walk the course comfortably, they are just as helpful for the day to day.  There are so many ways to improve foot strength, balance and mobility. Have a chat with your local Podiatrist or Physical Therapist about ways you can work on these areas that may be more suitable for your specific health requirements.

If you want to chat more about your foot issues, foot strength or our range of TRUE golf shoes, please reach out.  We can provide general advice and point you in the right direction.

Co Founder & In-House Podiatrist - Jack Oliver Golf