The arch of the foot is designed to absorb a lot of the impact when your foot strikes the ground. If the muscles in your arch are weak, they do not absorb this impact as well, resulting in greater stress on the joints of your legs. By strengthening your arches, you can help prevent a lot of common running injuries, from runner's knee to stress fractures. Strengthening your arches is not difficult or time consuming. Just perform these three simple exercises every day.
Exercise 1: Toe Curls.
Sit on the ground with one leg stretched straight out in front of you. Loop a resistance band or even a jump rope around the toes of that foot. Then, push forward with your toes, bringing the sole of your foot closer to the ground. Hold this extended position to the count of 5. Then, pull back on your toes with the band or rope, drawing the top of your foot towards your shin. Hold this position to the count of 5, and then release your foot. Do 10–12 stretches per foot.
Exercise 2: Front Foot Walks.
While barefoot or in socks, stand on the balls of your feet—where your toes meet the base of your foot. Walk across the room, bearing all of your weight only on the balls of your feet. Do not let your heels touch the ground. You'll notice that the higher you raise your heels off the ground while walking in this manner, the harder it is. Start by walking with your heels just an inch or so off the ground, and as you adapt to doing this exercise daily, start raising your heels further off the ground. Two minutes of walking in this manner is sufficient at the beginning, but work your way up to 5 minutes eventually.
Exercise 3: Contracted Foot Stands.
Start by standing barefoot with both feet relaxed. Then, contract the muscles in one of your feet to make your foot "shorter." You'll essentially be curling your toes under your foot and arching your foot. Holding on to a wall or piece of furniture if needed, balance on the contracted foot. Hold this for as long as you can—most people can manage 10–15 seconds at first—and work your way up to holding the pose for 1 minute. Repeat it with the opposite foot.
If you incorporate these exercises into your daily routine, you will notice that your stride starts to feel springier as your arch begins to absorb more of the shock. With any luck, you'll stay injury free and be able to train harder than ever.
If you have an injury that won't seem to heal or if you need more advice on how to strengthen your arches, contact a company that specializes in podiatric sports medicine, like Elmhurst Podiatry Center Ltd.