Soreness, cramping and weakness in the arch of the foot and calf muscles commonly result from the heavy load exerted on those areas. According to Dr. Jouko Kokkonen, professor of exercise science at Brigham Young University and author of "Stretching Anatomy," the muscles of the foot and lower leg are used more than any other muscles in the human body. Targeted exercises that incorporate a tennis ball can increase stamina and help alleviate tightness and pain.
The arch roller stretches your arches and helps prevent foot cramps. Inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot, commonly causes heel pain. The arch roller can help alleviate this condition as well as improve ankle flexibility and range of motion. To perform the exercise, sit at the edge of a sturdy chair with both feet flat on the floor. Place a tennis ball under the arch of your affected foot. Slowly roll your foot back and forth over the ball, spending 30 to 60 seconds on each tender spot. Repeat on the opposite foot.
Improper shoes, walking with your feet turned out and running on hard surfaces can cause foot injuries. After you have mastered the arch roller exercise, you can progress to the standing arch roller to help release tension and dissolve pain. Stand with a tennis ball under each foot. Carefully shift your body weight from one foot to the other. With each shift of body weight, shift the position of the ball under your foot until each foot is fully massaged.
Standing, walking or running for long periods can lead to heel pain. To combat aching heels, perform the heel pumper exercise. Sit on the bottom step of a set of stairs. Place a tennis ball under the heel of each of your feet. Use your body weight to create resistance by leaning your forearms on your knees. Now pump your heels up and down on the balls. After performing the exercise for one to two minutes, walk around the room to feel the release of tension in your heels.
The standing toe flexor stretch can help lessen the severity of foot pain and tightness associated with tendinitis. When performed properly, the exercise can also incorporate the calf muscles in the stretch. To execute the standing toe flexor stretch, place a tennis ball where a wall meets the floor. Stand toward the wall, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and place the bottoms of the toes of your affected foot against the tennis ball. Slightly bend your knee, lean forward and firmly press your toes into the ball.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Plantar Fasciitis and Bone Spurs
- "Stretching for 50+"; Karl Knopf, M.D.; 2004
- "Stretching Anatomy"; Jouko Kokkonen, Ph.D., et.al.; 2007
- EvolutionHealth.com: Fix Your Feet Balls
- Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.