When your feet hurt, it becomes impossible to maintain an active life. Simple tasks such as walking, running, or even riding a bike can be intolerable. When our feet ache, our workouts stop and it’s difficult to think about anything else! All you want is for your foot pain to go away so you can get your pain-free feet back and resume your normal happy and active life.

Recently a friend started complaining about this new pain under the ball of his foot. He’s pretty sure it started after a fun-filled night out bowling. (Who knew bowling was so strenuous to cause foot pain!) But when you move and bend the toe and ankle joints in new or extreme directions into a range of motion beyond what they are used to moving in, the increased stretch or pressure can change for better or worse. And in his case at the moment, the extra stress on the toes from bowling has my friends feet feeling worse!

Pain, swelling and inflammation are the immediate signs and signals from the body that something hurts. Many people have foot pain from poor shoe choices, bad posture habits, and pounding the feet into the ground to walk and run. Foot pain can start from a new activity (like my friend at the bowling alley) or pain can creep in from cumulative trauma over time until our feet just can’t take it anymore.

Foot pain can definitely affect how you bear your body weight when you move. There can be three to four times your body weight pounding down on your feet when you walk, and it can be much higher when you run. If your feet hurt, especially under the ball of the foot, the tendency is to stay off the ball of the foot to avoid hurting it more. This will change your gait habits. You might start toeing out more to walk, shifting your weight to one leg more as you stand or sit, or roll either in or out on your feet to avoid pressure on the painful parts. It might not be a big deal for a while, but over time these bad posture habits in an attempt to avoid foot pain can progress to knee, hip, and back pain problems too.

Strategies to Get Relief from Foot Pain:

1. Go see your Doctor. It’s important to rule out broken bones, torn ligaments, or any serious medical issues.
2. Consult with a Podiatrist. Podiatrists are foot care specialists. Getting sound advice from a foot expert can give you peace of mind and confidence that you’re doing the right things to take better care of your feet.
3. Listen to your Body. Apply the strategies of Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation… These basic first aid measures can help you quickly manage pain and swelling.
4. Stay off Your Feet. If necessary, give your foot a rest by using crutches to as to avoid putting too much weigh on a sore foot as you continue getting around for your daily activities..
5. Evaluate your Foot Mechanics: (or have a Podiatrist, or other foot-care expert take a look at your feet.) Body mechanics, alignment, the shoes you’re wearing all make a difference in how well your feet are working.
6. Get Started with a Foot Fitness Program to Stretch, Strengthen and Improve the Muscle Balance of Your Ankles, Arches, and Toes. There are lots of simple foot fitness exercises you can learn and do at home before or after your workouts to improve the health and fitness of your feet!

I took a look at the bottom of my friend’s feet and noticed that he’s got a huge callous under the ball of his foot under the 2nd toe. But the skin is as soft as a baby’s butt under his big toe joint. This means that he never rolls through the ball of the foot and big toe when he walks. This puts an excessive amount of pressure on the 2nd & 3rd toes all the time! Plus, it’s evident that he’s standing on the outside of his feet, and only pushing off the outsides of his feet for all his sport and athletic activities.

I also noticed that because the muscles of his feet are tight, his toes are stiff. He finds it easier to bend the toes backwards and up (flex) more than forwards and down (point). When the toes flex upwards it drops the ball of the foot joints closer to the floor creating more pressure on these bones against the ground. Then, if the toes are so stiff that when you roll through the foot to walk they don’t have the flexibility to point in the other direction (to push off the ground) the ball of foot joints are always too close to the ground and never get a moment of relief and the toes don’t get the mobility to bend both ways. Not only does this jam the toes into the foot, but it jams the foot into the ankle. So now the whole foot now has problems with functional mobility.

It’s the pointing action of the toes that helps to strengthen the arches of the feet, stretches out the top of the foot, and propels us through space when we walk and run.

Chances are if your feet hurt, your foot flexibility is compromised. People who have stiff toes, hammer toes, flat feet, fallen arches, or chronic ball of foot pain can have muscle imbalances that are contributing to the problems.

Here’s the good news… There are lots of quick and easy foot stretching exercises you can do to reduce foot pain and make your feet feel better. Tight or weak foot, ankle, and lower leg muscles can be a part of the reason why the bones of your toes and feet are improperly aligned, and just like any of the other muscles in the body, this can be resolved and improved with regular foot care training exercises.

Walking and running will not be enough to properly stretch and strengthen the muscles of your ankles, arches, and toes! Chances are some of the bad habits you have now that are contributing to your foot pain problems are a result of how you are currently walking and running! Before anything else, you have to become more aware of your present habits for they will need to change if you want to see improvements and get results. Achieving a proper balance of strength and flexibility in your feet when you exercise will eventually decrease and hopefully eliminate your foot pain problems.

Almost eighty percent of the American population is challenged with foot pain problems. It’s NOT OK for your feet to hurt, and there ARE lots of foot fitness exercises you can do to help stretch, strengthen and help keep your feet healthy. It doesn’t take a lot of time. Even a quick 5-15 minutes a couple of days a week with some targeted foot fitness exercises, and you can be well on your way to getting relief from foot pain problems.

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Learn more about how to keep your feet healthy and pain free. Click here: http://www.centerworks.com/foot-fitness-video/ to watch a complementary Foot Fitness Video Training Class from Pilates, foot fitness, & functional movement specialist Aliesa George, PMA-CPT and Centerworks.com

Get a Runfit Kit! http://www.centerworks.com/store/runfit-foot-fitness-kit/. Discover great foot fitness exercises, products, and foot-care resources for your at-home wellness workouts. If you walk, run, or are just looking for the best training tools to keep your feet healthy, the Centerworks® Runfit Kit has everything you need to help keep your feet healthy, happy, and pain-free! http://www.centerworks.com/store/runfit-foot-fitness-kit/

Author's Bio: 

Aliesa George is the founder of Centerworks® Pilates. She is an author, workshop presenter, and mind-body health expert with more than 25 years of experience designing solutions for health improvement. Aliesa has created a wide variety of products focused on Pilates, Foot Fitness, the Mind-Body Connection, Stress-Management, and Whole-Body Health. She enjoys helping others discover the connection between thought and action to get positive results and achieve goals for a healthy mind, body and spirit!