wikiHow to Do Physical Therapy Exercises for the Feet

Three Methods:Performing Foot Strengthening ExercisesDoing Foot and Ankle Stretching ExercisesMassaging Your Feet

The human foot is made of 26 bones and approximately 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It is also the part of the body that bears the most weight, so it is not uncommon to suffer from foot pain or diagnosed foot problems at some point in your life. Painful foot problems include bunions, pronation, fallen arches, hammertoes, plantar fasciitis and tight, cramping muscles. You can fix many of these problems by performing foot exercises to stretch the muscles and reduce tension.

Method 1
Performing Foot Strengthening Exercises

  1. 1
    Seek advice. If you are experiencing foot or ankle pain, you need to get advice from your doctor or podiatrist. If the pain does not go away, even with rest, ice, and elevation, you may have a fracture. This is even more likely if there is swelling, bruising, or discoloration. You will need to seek medical treatment and get an X-ray to confirm or rule out this possibility.
    • If you do have a fracture or other injury such as the ones mentioned above, ask your doctor if there are prescribed physical therapy exercises that you can do.[1]
  2. 2
    Try toe lifts. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your big toe up off the floor slightly while leaving the other four down. Practice this to the point where you can eventually raise up all five toes, one at the time, beginning with the big toe and ending with the fifth toe. Then practice lowering each toe one at a time, beginning with the fifth toe and ending with the big toe. Do two sets of 15.
    • If you find this difficult at first, just raise your big toe up and down until you get the hang of it. Move slowly through your toes, working up to where you can do all five.
    • This exercise is meant to strengthen the extenders, one of the groups of muscles which move the toes up and down. Strong extenders and flexors can help greatly with gait and balance and thus help prevent foot injuries from accidents, according to the Summit Medical Group.[2][3][4]
  3. 3
    Do toe curls. Place a towel on the ground under your right foot. Stretch your toes out and pull them back in to grip the material with your toes. Lift the cloth one to two inches off the ground and hold for five seconds. Lower it to the ground. Repeat five times. Then repeat on the left side.
    • Relax your muscles between each grip.
    • Work up to holding the grip for 10 seconds at a time.
    • Toe curls focus primarily on strengthening the toe flexors.
  4. 4
    Pick up marbles. Place 20 marbles and a small bowl on the ground. Sit on the couch or in a chair, relaxed all the way back. With one foot, pick up one marble at a time and place it in the bowl. Then empty the marbles out and do the same thing with your other foot. This exercise will strengthen the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles in the feet. It is also helpful for plantar fasciitis but also for injuries like turf toe, a term use for injury to the great toe caused by hyperextension.[5][6]
  5. 5
    Write the alphabet. Sit on the couch, relaxed against the back. Extend one of your legs and raise one foot several inches off the ground. Trace the alphabet in the air using your big toe as a “pencil.” Then switch legs and do the same with the opposite big toe. This exercise helps to strengthen the extensor and flexor muscles in the foot.
    • It can also help with plantar fasciitis and turf toe, among other foot conditions. It is especially effective in ankle rehabilitation.
    • Keep your movements small. Just use your ankle, foot, and toe.[7]
  6. 6
    Do a toe extension. Wrap a rubber band around the middle of all five of your toes on your right foot. It should have medium resistance so that it will give slightly. Stretch all of your toes apart. This will cause the band to stretch as far as it will go. Hold the stretch for five seconds and then relax your toes. Perform this stretch five times on each foot.
    • Make sure to relax for approximately five seconds.
    • This strengthens the extrinsic and intrinsic muscles of the foot and is used in the treatment of both plantar fasciitis and turf toe.[8]
  7. Image titled Do Physical Therapy Exercises for the Feet Step 6
    Try a big toe pull. Loop the rubber band between the big toe on your right foot and the big toe on your left. Place your feet together. Pull your toes apart while trying to keep your ankles together. Stretch the rubber band as far as you can, then relax. Relax for five seconds in between stretches and repeat five times.
    • This exercise strengthens the extrinsic and intrinsic muscles in the feet.
  8. 8
    Do resistant ankle inversion. Sit on the floor with legs stretched out in front of you. Attach one end of a therapy band to a stationary object, such as the leg of a heavy table. The table should be beside you, down at your feet. Loop the other end of the band around the ball of your foot. The table leg will be off to the side. The loop of the band will wrap around the ball of your foot and extend out beside you toward the table. Using the band for resistance, move your ankle away from the table, pulling against the band to stretch it out.
    • Do two sets of 15.
    • This exercise can help to strengthen the malleolus and tibialis muscles on either side of the ankle. It can also help prevent or treat sprains.[9]
  9. 9
    Perform resistant ankle eversion. This exercise is very similar to the inversion. Sit on the floor with legs stretched out in front of you. With the band in the same position as with the inversion, move the loop of the resistance band down so that it is against the arch of the foot instead of the ball. Move your foot up and out against the therapy band.
    • Do two sets of 15.
    • This exercise can help to strengthen the peroneal and tibialis muscles on both sides of your ankle. It can also help treat or prevent sprains.[10]
  10. Image titled Do Physical Therapy Exercises for the Feet Step 8
    Do calf raises. Stand straight in front of a wall, counter, or other stable object. Place your hands gently on the wall in front of you. Raise yourself onto your toes in a calf raise exercise. From this raised-toe position, lower your feet to the ground again while keeping yourself balanced with your hands against the wall. Repeat 10 times, making sure to lower yourself slowly to the ground.
    • For an extra challenge, try raising yourself on 1 foot at a time, and doing 10 reps with each foot.[11][12][13]

Method 2
Doing Foot and Ankle Stretching Exercises

  1. 1
    Test your ankle range of motion. Sit with your legs stretched straight out in front of you. Without moving legs, point your feet backward towards your body as far as they will comfortably go. Hold for 10 seconds. Then, point your toes down away from your body. Hold for 10 more seconds. Next, point toes towards the opposite foot and hold for 10 seconds. Then, point your toes away from the opposite foot and hold for 10 more seconds. Lastly, move the ankles 10 times clockwise and 10 times counterclockwise.
    • This exercise was developed by the Summit Medical Group, a rehabilitation center, to help increase the range of motion or flexibility of the ankles.
    • According to Summit, increased flexibility and strength in the ankle muscles, especially the tibialis muscles, can help to greatly reduce injuries such as sprains.
    • Use this series as a warm-up for the remaining stretching exercises.[14]
  2. 2
    Do plantar flexion. This stretch is similar to the warm up, but it is a more targeted stretch. Sit against the couch with your feet straight out in front of you, so that they are perpendicular to your legs. Flex your feet back towards you as far as they will go while keeping your legs flat on the ground. Try to keep your feet extended, so your toes and heels move in a straight line. Hold for five seconds. Relax and then push your toes away from the body as far as they will go.
    • Repeat 15 times, moving both feet at the same time. You can also do this exercise while you are lying down.
    • To get a deeper stretch, you can use an elastic band.
    • Pointing the toes away from the body helps to strengthen the muscles in the calves.
  3. 3
    Try dorsiflexion. Sit in a chair and flex your right foot. Loop a large towel under your foot. Pull on the ends of the towel and pull it toward you. Stretch your toes towards you as far as you can while remaining comfortable. Hold stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 3 times with each foot.
    • This stretches the muscles in the shins. Flexible shins, like calves, are important for full recovery from plantar fasciitis.
    • You can also do this with a resistance band on the floor. Hook the band around a table leg. Walk away from the table and loop your foot in the band. Bring your toes toward you, pulling against the band.[15]
  4. 4
    Do an Achilles stretch. Stand on a stair. Move until you are only standing on the stair with the balls of your feet. Hold onto the railings or wall on both sides for balance. Slowly lower your heel towards the step below you until you feel the stretching in the calf muscles. Hold this pose for 15-30 seconds, then relax. Do three reps.
    • This exercise helps stretch out the muscles of the calf. Calf muscle stretching, according to the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society, is integral to the treatment of plantar fasciitis. This is because excessively tight calf muscles make it more difficult to properly flex and stretch the heel. This is necessary to help recover from this painful condition. [16][17]
  5. 5
    Perform a standing calf stretch. Stand facing the wall with hands resting on the wall for balance. Step forward with one leg and bend the knee slightly. Stretch the other leg behind you so that your heel is resting on the floor. Then, lean slowly into the wall until you feel the stretching in your calf. Hold for 15–30 seconds and do three reps.
    • This exercise stretches the soleus, one of the major muscles in the calf.[18].
  6. 6
    Stretch your toe flexors. Stand facing the wall, placing your hands on the wall for balance. Stretch your leg out behind you and point your foot, placing the top of your foot on the ground. Relax and feel the stretching in the ankle. Hold this pose for 15–30 seconds, stopping to rest for a moment if you feel any cramping in the toes. Do three reps on each foot.
    • Work yourself up to holding the stance for one minute.
    • This is designed to stretch out the flexors muscles in the foot, which help you move the feet in relation to the leg.[19]

Method 3
Massaging Your Feet

  1. 1
    Know the importance of massage. Doctors and clinics such as the Sports Injuries Clinic endorse foot massage. They are relaxing, but massages also increase circulation to the feet. They also help prevent injuries such as muscle strains or sprains.[20]
  2. Image titled Do Physical Therapy Exercises for the Feet Step 12
    Perform a ball roll. Sit on a chair and place a tennis, lacrosse, or golf ball under the ball of your right foot (a tennis ball is probably the most comfortable for your foot). Roll the ball with your feet, moving the ball along the bottom of your foot from ball to heel. Continue the movement for two minutes. You should feel the massage throughout your foot.
    • Try moving the ball up and down and in circles to increase the efficacy of the massage. Repeat on left foot for 2 minutes.[21]
  3. Image titled Do Physical Therapy Exercises for the Feet Step 13
    Give yourself a plantar fascia massage. While sitting on the chair, place your right foot on top of your left thigh. Use your thumb to gently work circles into your arch. Run your hands up and down your foot, releasing the muscles through the whole foot. Place your fingers between your toes as if you were holding hands with your feet. Keep this position with your toes spread for 30 seconds. Massage each toe to release extra tension.[22]


  • Before you start this plan, first consult a physician or a physical therapist to see what specific exercises are appropriate for a specific goal.
  • Do not ignore any pain resulting from an exercise. Report this to the physician or physical therapist immediately for further instructions to prevent an injury or re-injury during the conditioning.
  • If your feet seem particularly sore, soak them in a combination of warm water and Epsom salts. These salts have been shown to relieve pain, stiffness, and muscle cramping. Soak 10–20 minutes or until water cools down.
  • You should notify your doctor or physical therapist if the pain is new or worse than normal, is at a five or above on a standard one to 10 pain scale, makes it hard to walk or put weight upon the foot, feels different or more intense than previously experienced, or is accompanied by any redness, swelling or discoloration.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (19)

Article Info

Categories: Feet Knees and Legs