Foot Exercises for Strength, Flexibility & Pain Relief

May 27, 2020 9:39 am Published by

It’s common to experience ankle, foot, or toe pain at some point in your life, even if you’ve never suffered an injury. Thankfully, you can often reduce this pain on your own with an increased focus on foot strength and flexibility through targeted exercises. 

Try the following foot exercises to ease your current pain, all of which are easy to do and don’t require any complicated equipment or fitness expertises. We’ve divided the exercises into three categories, allowing you to focus on your particular needs: 

1.) Exercises to Strengthen Foot Arch, Foot & Ankles

The foot exercises listed below are all designed to strengthen your foot and ankle region. Strengthening the area improves your range of motion and ensures your muscles provide proper support for your joints. Consistently performing these will work to improve your foot strength and reduce your pain:

Toe Curl

This exercise strengthens the muscles on the tops of your toes and feet.

  • Sit up straight in a chair with your feet situated flat on the floor.
  • Lay a small towel in front of you so the shorter end faces your feet.
  • Place your feet at the end of the towel and scrunch your toes up, pulling the towel towards you.
  • Repeat five times on each foot.

Toe Splay

This exercise works to improve muscle control in your toes. Do this with both feet simultaneously or alternate.

  • Sit in a chair with your feet resting gently on the floor.
  • Spread your toes out as wide as possible, creating as much room in-between them, and hold for five seconds.
  • Repeat the process 10 times.
  • Eventually, add a rubber band around your toes for more resistance to make the exercise more challenging.

Marble Pick-up

Use this exercise to strengthen the muscles in the underside of your toes and feet.

  • Sit up straight in a chair and keep your feet flat against the floor.
  • Place a bowl of marbles (around 20) on the floor in front of your feet and situate another empty bowl next to it.
  • Using the toes of one foot, try to pick up a marble and move it from one bowl to the other.
  • Repeat with your other foot.

Sand Walking

Did you ever notice that a nice walk on the beach will cause your feet and calves to ache? It’s because sand provides the ideal walking surface to challenge the muscles in both the feet and calves, which strengthens them. 

  • Visit your local beach, volleyball court, or desert.
  • Remove your socks and shoes.
  • Walk around for a bit. Increase the distance you stroll, to keep from overexerting the muscles. 

2.) Exercises to Improve Flexibility

Flexibility is also important for reducing chronic, or even occasional foot, ankle or toe pain. Try the following foot exercises to improve the overall flexibility of your feet:

Grab & Pull Back

This stretches the foot out, improving flexibility. To do:

  • Sit on the floor, with one foot over your thigh. (make a number four with your legs).
  • Push into your heel, while relaxing the Achilles. (the large band that connects the calf muscle to your heel.)
  • With the other hand, push on the toes from the top of the foot, forcing your foot to arch.

Toe Raise, Point & Curl 

This is a three-phase exercise that will strengthen all parts of your toes and feet.

  • Sit up straight in a chair, with feet flat on the floor.
  • While keeping your toes on the floor, raise your heels. Stop when the balls of your feet alone remain touching.
  • Hold this pose for five seconds, then lower heels.
  • For the second phase, raise your heels, then point your toes, keeping only the tips of your second and big toes touching the floor.
  • Hold for five seconds.
  • Begin the third phase by raising your heels and curling toes inward, keeping only the tips of your toes touching the floor. Hold this pose for five seconds.
  • Repeat each phase 10 times to build mobility and to strengthen and improve flexibility.

3.) Exercises to Relieve Foot Pain

If you are in pain, your main goal is to relieve that pain. These following foot exercises help do just that.


Write the Alphabet

This is a great exercise to ease muscle pain and tension in the top area of your foot. It works to reduce pain by increasing mobility in the big toe and ankle. All you do is write the alphabet with your big toe. 

  • Sit or stand, whichever you prefer. If balancing on one foot is difficult for you, sit or use a chair for support.
  • Lift one foot a few inches off the floor.
  • Pretend to “write” your alphabet using your big toe as a pen. Exaggerate the strokes of each letter.
  • Go through the complete alphabet once in uppercase, then again in lowercase letters.
  • Repeat throughout the day as needed.

Bent-Knee Heel Raises

This exercise trains the muscles in the feet to withstand the impact of constant foot to ground impact.

  • Stand on a box, or bench with your heels hanging over the edge. Keep your balance by holding onto a nearby wall or chair.
  • Raise one heel, transferring your weight to just one foot.
  • On the foot that remains touching the box, lower the heel towards the floor, and then push upwards on your toes to push your heel above the box or bench.
  • Repeat on the other foot.
  • Perform around 15 reps per foot, around three times weekly.

Toe Spread & Press

This exercise is especially effective to alleviate plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammatory condition that affects the bottom of your foot. Luckily, it’s often relieved with the right therapeutic routine.

  • Stand with your feet spread hip-distance apart.
  • Lift your toes and spread them as far apart as possible.
  • Once you spread your toes as wide as you can, place them on the ground. Then, press the ball of your biggest toe down, without allowing your foot to lift.
  • Repeat ten times per week or after strenuous exercise.

A Podiatrist’s Special Touch

If the above exercises and stretches do not eliminate your foot or ankle pain, you may need a podiatrist’s guidance to maintain proper form and to recommend a therapeutic regimen designed just for you.

Our team at Foot & Ankle is here to properly diagnose the cause of your discomfort and create a unique treatment plan. Just give us a call at 239.936.5400 to schedule a consultation today. 

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