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Exercises to keep aches, pains away from feet

February 24, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
After an evening in heels, your feet hurt, and it's like your foot has been working out with a bad trainer, resulting in what one expert says is a heel hangover. "When you're walking around, your toes might be hurting, your knees might be a bit sore, low back might be a little bit sore," said biomechanical scientist Katy Bowman.

For guys, hard-soled and even thick-padded athletic shoes that can have an elevated heel can cause similar challenges. In addition, many athletes exercise their bodies but fail to adequately give feet the workout they deserve.

Improper footwear to lack of stretching, Bowman is a master at recognizing self-induced injuries like bunions, plantar fasciitis and toe neuromas.

But rather than not wear heels, Bowman says that after hours in an inappropriate shoe, give feet special attention.

Get a foam dome from the sporting goods store, or use a tightly rolled up towel, to stretch your calf muscle, which in turn releases heel and foot stress. Step forward with the foot that's not on the dome, as far forward as you can, hold the stretch for one minute and repeat two or three times in a session. Try four sessions a day.

For really stiff toes, try wearing inexpensive toe spacers at home that you can get at the nail salon or drug store.

"Your toes are stretching without you necessarily having to do anything," Bowman said.

Another inexpensive exercise is keeping your heel on the ground and gently rolling your foot over a ball, Bowman said.

Practice lifting toes off the ground one at a time, right to left, to help restore health to the foot's muscles and nerves.

Finally, at home, go barefoot to allow the foot to work as nature designed, and when possible, don those flats.