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Best Foot Forward

15 minutes every day, no huffing, no puffing

If you’ve been hiding indoors during the winter, now is the time to get outside. Walk for pleasure. Walk to lose a few pounds. Walk to raise money for charity. Walk to prevent or ease back pain.

When you walk, remember to take good care of your feet. They act as shock absorbers for your whole system, protecting your ankles, knees, hips, and back. When your feet are hurting, your gait suffers. And a change in your gait affects the mechanics of your spine.

Most foot pain derives from mechanical problems. Therefore, a few simple stretches can help you mobilize and strengthen your feet. Everyone should stretch and strengthen toes, feet, calves. Here’s how:

Gain flexibility in your ankles. Work on increasing up-and-down motion. Point your toes toward your nose and then away. Repeat. Make circles with your ankles. Now reverse direction and do it again.

Strengthen your feet. Curl your toes under so you can see the five knuckles across the top of your foot. Every time you curl your toes, you strengthen the muscles that support the plantar fascia. Balance on each foot for 60 seconds.

Stretch your toes. Increase the spaces between your toes. Relax and repeat. Sometimes this takes practice, but keep at it and you’ll succeed.

Your shoes also help to keep your feet healthy – or not. If your feet feel tired and achy at the end of the day, it could be that your shoes are:

Stretch your toes. Look at your shoes. Are they lopsided? Have they lost their original shape? Are the heels worn down? Like the tires on your car, footwear must be replaced.

Overworked. Also like tires, footwear must be rotated. Different shoes make you use the muscles of your feet differently, preventing the overuse that leads to injury..

Ill-fitting. Get your feet measured every time you buy shoes. If your shoe fits in the front but is too big in the back, make a change.

Weak. The shoe should be strong at the heel counter, the part behind your heel that holds it steady.

Ill–suited. Maybe your shoes don’t fit the activity. Don’t wear sandals all day. In moderation, these shoes are fine.

Remember: Warm up your feet for the day. Pedal your feet up and down before you get out of bed.

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