Let’s strengthen the toes together, whose active use is essential for proper walking.
We have prepared four easy exercises you can try at home in front of the TV. It's important to perform the exercises barefoot (even without socks) to avoid unwanted foot restrictions.
We have tried to write down the most detailed instructions for each movement, but we recommend clicking through short Czech videos from Matyáš Kozma (lecturer of Natural Movement), where you see everything in detail.
Wiggling and stretching your toes in your free time certainly does not harm anything, quite the contrary. You can apply it anywhere and anytime, for example, at work or while waiting in line, because no stranger will even notice it in your shoes. Moreover, we are going to show you an exercise that not only gets our blood pumping and strengthens the muscles of our feet but, above all, puts our toes in an extreme position.
Backward and outward squats
Do you know the term telemark from ski jumping? It's a landing technique that jumpers use as a graceful way to finish the jump. That's what we want you to achieve, however not in sturdy ski boots, but barefoot, to use the full potential of the toes.
Starting from a standing position, with both legs at the same level, slightly apart at the hip, and toes pointing forward. Shift your weight to one of your legs, and extend the other one backward and slightly outwards. The front leg goes into a squat position (thigh and calf at approximately 90°), and the toes support the back leg (the foot sole and heel mustn't touch the ground). Then return to the original standing position and repeat several times by switching legs.
While in the previous exercise, we bend the toes only briefly, in the next, we will focus on an intense stretch to both sides. In addition, we are going to use our body weight.
Kneeling on heels and toes
As the name suggests, we start in the kneeling position, which is a position where both feet are on the floor, the butt rests on them, and the upper half of the body remains upright. We can keep our knees together or slightly apart, depending on how comfortable we are.
Lift the weight of the body and bend the toes. We lean on them as in the previous exercises, so only the knees and toes touch the floor. The heels and feet soles are raised. Put your body weight back on the legs and stay in this position as long as possible.
The body weight shouldn't squeeze the toes. If you want to lean against them, start by putting the big toes together and spreading the rest of the toes as much as possible to form a fan. It will help you to distribute the body weight to each toe. The leaning on the toes will become less challenging.
When this position no longer suits us, we return to kneeling on the heels - the entire leg touches the floor from the knee down, through the shin, to the top of the toes. You should feel the body weight in the area of the stretched ankle. Again, stay until the position is comfortable, and then repeat the first and second positions several times, always for as long as possible.
The entire body weight rests (ideally) evenly distributed over the surface of the foot. To strengthen it effectively, we will transfer it exclusively to the toes in the following exercise.
We start from an upright standing position. Stand on the toe tips of both feet, heels and feet soles raised off the mat. If you lose your balance, you can only practice standing on your tiptoes for a while.
Then perform a regular squat, the depth does not matter, but the soles of the feet and heels mustn't touch the ground at all times. From there, try to return to the original position and repeat it all again at a slow pace. To improve stability, we can push the arms perpendicularly down towards the floor during the squat to firm up the shaky body.
We have many tendons and muscles in the leg area that often get lazy. In the last exercise, we will learn to engage the toes more by actively working on weight transfer, which will help us develop good walking habits.
Forward knees in squats
This exercise combines the previous ones and adds something extra. We start with the tiptoe squat, but this time we go with the butt to the heels, where we stop for a moment (all the time, only the toes touch the ground, heels and feet soles are in the air).
The knees are pointing straight ahead, and by moving them forward (as far forward and towards the mat as possible, but without touching the floor), we naturally transfer the body weight forward. Instead of trying to compensate for the lost balance with the upper half of the body, we let the toes do the work.
Make a fist with your toes (push them hard against the mat) because this movement alone should bring your center of gravity (and knees) back to its original position. At a slow pace, repeat several times, moving the knees forward and returning them by clenching the toes.
Incorporate all of the exercises listed here into your regular daily routine, and over time you will notice the difference in the performance of your toes when walking. But we recommend getting yourself barefoot shoes that give your toes enough space and flexibility for active engagement. We’ll tell you how to choose the right ones in this article, or you can contact our E-shop support team.