The feet are a very important but often neglected body part. They are what connects us to the ground, making them a grounding force. They are one of the most innervated parts of the body, containing over 7,000 nerve endings in each foot. This means that the feet are just as sensitive and aware as if being touched by a hand. Unfortunately, we don't pay them much attention until there is discomfort or pain.
In Pilates, we emphasize the importance of the feet from the very first exercise you learn - Footwork. Working to improve the health of the feet can improve the way the whole body moves. Besides, what's the point in having a strong upper body and still being out of balance because the feet are weak? Often, we don't even know are feet are weak until we stretch them, emphasize individual parts or apply pressure.
Here are a few foot exercises that you can do at home with a couple of props: a chair, a small ball, a towel and a rubber band or hair tie.
Small Ball Exercises
Ideally, you will want to use a small, soft rubber ball about 2 inches in diameter but a larger ball like a soft tennis ball may work too. You don't want to use a hard ball without any give to it because it may irritate the muscle fibers. Do not do this exercise if you have foot inflammation.
First, we want to focus on applying pressure to the heel, the metatarsals (toe knuckles), and the inner and outer arch. Step gently onto each point 3-5 times.
Then, we will roll the ball along the complete arch of the foot.
Repeat sequence on the other foot.
Place a hand towel on the floor in front of you. You can choose to stand or sit for this one. You are going to try to move the towel towards your heels by curling your toes and lifting your arches.
You are going to need a thick rubber band like the ones you see at the grocery store around broccoli or asparagus. I've even used a thick hair tie for this exercise. Place the rubber band around the big toes of both feet. Try to pull the rubber band by stretching the toes apart. As a challenge, bring the toes back together while the rubber band is stretched.