Over the course of my recent downtime I was reading a lot about various running injuries and preventative measures that athlete’s can take to avoid common problems. Curiously, it seems as though the feet and ankles are the most overlooked area of the casual athlete’s body.
This often leads to various foot injuries or joint problems in and around the ankles. I say curiously since the feet and ankles are central to the running form and take the majority of the front line beating. Perhaps we runners (and I include myself in this generalization) should spend a little more time focusing on the various impact and stress points instead of blindly trying to build muscle mass. Outlined here are some basic foot and ankle exercises, collectively designed to build strength and help limit the wear and tear that results from long miles on the road or track.
|Single-Leg Directional Hops
|Improves ankle and knee stability for a stronger push-off and landing.
To Do: Standing on your left leg, with the right knee raised to hip height, hop forward, landing softly. Hop back to start, then hop diagonally (to the left) and back to center, hop to the left and return to start.
Do 12 reps; switch legs.
|Develops energy transfer from landing to push-off; strengthens the lateral knee muscles for improved stability.
To Do: Lunge the left leg forward. With quick force, push the left foot off the floor and into a diagonal lunge to the left, keeping the hips straight. Push the left foot off the floor again, landing in a lunge to the left side, keeping the upper body stacked over the hips. That’s one rep. (Each rep should take about three seconds to complete.)
Do six reps; switch legs.
|Builds strength from the feet up through the hips for better transfer of power.
To Do: Standing in the bottom of a squat position with feet hip-width apart and shoulders stacked over hips, shoot your legs out to the sides and your arms out to shoulder height (like a regular jumping jack) without moving your upper body.
Do 16 to 24 reps.
|Single-Leg Mountain Climbers
|Strengthens foot-strike muscles; engages hip flexors, quads, glutes, and core.
To Do: Starting in a plank position, with abs engaged, bend your left knee and pin it against the right knee. Hop your right foot forward to waist distance, landing lightly on the ball of your foot and keeping the left leg from touching the ground. Then, shoot the right foot back, keeping knees pinned and left leg raised. That’s one rep.
Do 16 reps; switch legs.