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Achy feet are a more common problem than you'd think.
As a teenager, I experienced excruciating pain in my ankles, to the point where I could barely walk. X-rays revealed that I had degenerative arthritis in my ankles -- at the age of 16! Forced to retire from competitive gymnastics so I could give my body a chance to heal, I all but gave up hope that I'd ever have painless feet again.
After almost three decades, I've learned a lot.
I listen to my body and take care of my feet, and I'm now running miles every week -- without any pain in my ankles. A long rehab combined with my Pilates teaching experience has taught me a lot about the importance of gaining proper strength, flexibility and mobility in my legs and feet.
The long-and-short of it: The muscles in our feet help hold bones in alignment. If those muscles aren't strong, the bones can move, which causes pressure, pain and fatigue. Learn to build those muscles, and you'll experience less pain.
Here, a few of my favorite foot-strengthening exercises you can easily work into your day to get relief from achy feet:
- While sitting at your desk, rotate your feet at the ankles, making circular motions.
- If you're cooking or waiting in line, lift up and down onto your tiptoes.
- When you're watching TV, practice picking up pencils or marbles with your toes.
- Use your feet instead of your hands to pick up dirty clothes from the floor and put it into the laundry basket.
- If you're lucky enough to get an opportunity to stroll barefoot on the beach, take it! Walking in sand is a great workout for your feet and ankles.
Choosing the proper footwear is also essential to healthy feet. My advice:
Don't give up heels.
Yes, surprisingly, I have no problem with heels -- as long as they're comfortable. You may have to try on 25 styles to find a comfortable pair, but they're out there!
Stay away from flip-flops and backless sandals.
These are the worst shoes you can wear, because your toes have to curl under with every step to hold the shoe onto your foot. This prevents the natural, strengthening motion of rolling through your toes and pushing off. If you wear sandals a lot, eventually your arches will fall, your stride will shorten, and you could wind up with hip and back pain.
Aliesa George is the author of Fantastic Feet! Exercises to Strengthen the Ankles, Arches and Toes.
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