March 21, 2014

Flexible feet equal improved performance

I've always known that when comparing strength to flexibility, I'm high on strong (well, you know, for me) and low on flex (compared to everyone). That's why weekly yoga is a must for me, especially when I tax my muscles with distance running week after week, a never-ending garland of training. Sometimes I rest too, but even with the rest breaks, I know without working on flexibility the rest of my training will suffer. 

Flexibility one key to keeping us uninjured and allowing us the largest range of motion to produce the our maximum speeds. 

During speed work today, I was reminded of how important foot flexibility is. When making those quicker transitions and strikes with my feet, I could feel their tightness tonight. Instead of my toes bending back naturally and fluidly with each step, it almost felt like they had to click into place like pieces of a Lego character. I'm not exactly sure that I recognized before what that stiffness in my feet was, but last week at yin restorative yoga (i.e. the best yoga class every invented for runners or anyone), we did this foot stretch.

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Yin is a slow-paced practice, where pillows and blankets are commonplace, and we hold poses for at least two minutes. Turns out that I can only hold the pose above for five seconds because my feet, and especially my toes, are so incredibly tight. Tight as a 90s baby tee. Tight as spray-on skinny jeans.

I can hold this one slightly longer, but I'm not sure it's less painful. 

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We (by that I mean I) often focus on flexibility of hip flexors and calves and hamstrings but rarely focus on stretching our feet. It makes sense to me that if I can prevent injury and increase performance by stretching those other areas, the same will be true for my feet too.

And lately I've been getting some weird toe strains, which I think can be improved through foot stretches. 

Here are some other stretches that are good for your feet and toes. 

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What do you do to take care of your blasted runner feet?

14 comments:

  1. I've been having this weird foot/ankle issue the last 3 weeks. I searched stretches & found the same ones you listed. I've been doing them the past week and a half & can tell a huge difference! I've gone from horrible pain to just a tight feeling, which will hopefully get better the more I work at it!

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  2. I started doing those two poses recently cause I am extremely prone to foot injuries. My feet don't seem to be tight--I don't have any trouble holding the poses--but I'm hoping that they will be "restorative". :) I'll have to look into yin yoga and get into the habit of doing it! The little yoga that I do now always makes me feel so much better!

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  3. Thanks for some great ideas! My feet usually get most of the attention because they are the whiniesf.

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  4. OO Thanks for the post. Do you have any suggestions for good hip flexor stretches?

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    1. Here's a video with some good basics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XctGjJ4nNYQ. And I really like pigeon pose (from yoga) too.

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  5. Thanks so much for that post. I've got a trace of PF and am convinced that more stretching will help. Also, I've learned that shoes that are too flexible are not good for PF.

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    1. Interesting on the shoes. I wonder if that's because if your shoes are flexible and your feet aren't, you'll have issues. Just curious!

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  6. This is an important one. Even though I'm quite flexible overall, I learned that because I have such high arches my feet are somewhat rigid and don't naturally make much of a rolling motion when they strike the ground. I actually had a PT exercise of practicing striking the foot on the ground with the side of the heel and then rolling it to the inside. It really did help my feet be more mobile, which made my ankles and knees happier. When I've had deep tissue massage on my feet it's been amazing!

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  7. I do lots of calf stretches & toe ups but honestly my plantar fasciitis is so bad on the left foot that most of these exercises make me cringe just looking at the pics. I'm supposed to be rolling my foot on a golf ball and it just hurts so badly! I go to the chiro weekly and let her do the torture. :o(

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  8. I stretch after every run, and rub coconut oil on them before i go to bed. I swear by both!

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  9. I actually had my first ever foot massage this week, it was a birthday present that I finally cashed in. Utter bliss. I kept thinking about those poor feet pounding the ground and enjoyed every second of it!

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  10. Yes, I think foot strengthening and stretching is often overlooked. I started focusing more on my feet a few months ago after having some heel soreness. I use several of the items you listed as well as pulling a towel across the floor with your toes (I don't know if it has an actual name) and stretching my feet out with my hands.

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  11. I need to be doing more of this!! Thanks for sharing!! I'm apparently not taking good enough care (considering they cramp up often)

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