Foot and Ankle Conditioning Program
A foot injury or foot surgery can leave you immobile for a period of time. To return to your regular activities and more strenuous recreational activities, it is necessary for you to follow a well-planned activity and exercise-conditioning program.
A well-structured program will help you return to sports and other activities, and let you enjoy a healthier, more active lifestyle. These programs provide a wide range of exercises that are safe and effective for your particular condition, and are best performed under the supervision of your doctor or physical therapist. Your doctor will help to structure and supervise an exercise routine that is ideal for you.
A good exercise program focuses on strengthening and stretching the muscles and tendons of the lower leg, feet and ankles to relieve pain and soreness, keep the muscles flexible, provide stability and prevent future injury.
Foot and ankle-conditioning programs last for approximately 4 to 6 weeks; however, you may need to continue the exercises longer for lifelong protection and maintenance of your feet and lower legs. Follow the routine 3 to 5 times a week or as specified by your doctor to maintain strength and range of motion.
Before performing any of these exercises, it is very important to first warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of walking or stationary biking. This will help loosen stiff muscles and reduce your risk of injuries. Start with stretching exercises, followed by strengthening exercises, and end with stretching exercises. You should not feel pain while exercising. Talk to your physical therapist if you do. It is very important to perform these exercises correctly to get the best results and avoid injuries.
Some of the exercises that are prescribed include:
- Heel cord stretches: Stand with a wall in front of you. Put your unaffected foot ahead of you with the knee bent and your affected foot straight behind you. While supporting yourself on the wall, press your hips forward with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
- Heel cord stretch with bent knee: Stand with a wall in front of you. Put your unaffected leg ahead of you with the knee slightly bent and your affected leg straight behind you, with the knee bent and the toes pointed in slightly. While supporting yourself on the wall, press your hips forward towards the wall with your heels flat on the floor. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions. Stretch should be felt in your calf muscles, heel and calf. Perform this exercise for six to seven days a week.
- Golf ball rolling: Sit on a chair with both feet on the ground. Use your affected foot to roll a golf ball under the arch of the foot. Perform this activity for 2 minutes.
- Towel stretching: Sit on the floor with the legs straight in front of you. Hook a towel under your affected foot and holding both ends pull towards yourself, keeping the leg straight. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds with 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
- Calf raises: Stand behind a chair and support yourself as you raise your unaffected leg behind you putting all your weight on the affected foot. Lift the heel and raise your body up, then lower. Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
- Ankle range of motion: Sit on the ground in a position that your feet do not touch the floor. Write each letter of the alphabet in the air using your foot. Start with your big toe. Try keeping small movements. Perform 2 sets daily.
- Marble activity: Sit down on a chair and place 20 marbles on the floor near your affected foot. Use your toes to pick up one marble at a time and place it into a container.