Exercises for skillful running
The first step towards happy, healthy movement should start in the toes and feet. The following Toe-ga exercises should be performed daily to improve mobility, flexibility and strength in the ankle, feet and toes. Do them twice a day if possible and give yourself 5–10 minutes to complete the exercises, the longer the better. Being barefoot, if it’s safe to do so, or wearing appropriate footwear for the majority of the time will allow your newly gained foot mobility to materialise as your feet adapt.
Rooting the big toe
In a standing position, push the big toe down into the floor and raise the other four toes off the floor. This can be extremely challenging at first, so aim for small pulses of the movement. It’s also important to keep the ball of the foot in contact with the ground at all times, i.e. do not roll the foot inwards in order to lift the other four toes. When your proprioception starts to improve, aim to hold the other four toes off the floor while pushing down the big toe for up to 30secs.
Big toe under
Bend the big toe underneath the foot – using your hands to assist if necessary. This can be an uncomfortable movement (often with restricted range of motion) so it’s important to use a soft surface when doing this exercise. It is important that the emphasis is on mobility at the 1st metatarsal joint. When viewed from above, it will appear as though the big toe has been chopped off.
Big toe out
With or without assistance, bend the four smaller toes underneath the foot, leaving the big toe pointing forwards. In this position, root the big toe into the floor to improve strength in this position. The bending of the toes can be an uncomfortable movement so it’s important to use a soft surface when doing this exercise. Again, it’s important to emphasise mobility at the metatarsal heads – when viewed from above, it will appear as though the smaller toes have been chopped off.
Sit on heels, big toe pulses
Keeping the toes facing forwards, sit back on the heels allowing the toes (and plantar surface of the feet) to stretch. Once in a relaxed position, push the big toes into the floor repeatedly (pulsing) allowing the body to gently rock back and forth.
Sit on heels, plantar flexion
Sit on the heels once more, except this time, plantar flex the ankle allowing the toes to face behind you – this time you will feel the stretch on the front of the ankle/foot.
Sit on heels, plantar flexion, lean back
As you sit on the heels in the above position, gently lean back (supported by your hands) as far as is comfortable – feeling the stretch through the quads/hip flexors. Take care not to overstretch in this position.