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?