We all love a good stretch! It is a natural and instinctive activity for most animals – where do you think the downward dog yoga pose comes from? Increased activity, certain footwear and even our posture can cause our muscles to become overworked with time. Stretching is a great way to reduce muscle tension and improve range of motion. It can be included into your daily routine or following exercise. It is important to stretch correctly by gently holding each stretch and avoiding bouncing during the activity.
Here are my top 4 stretches for your feet and legs:
Position yourself half a meter away from a wall with your feet shoulder width apart. Step your right foot backwards and place your hands against the wall. Keep your hips square, both feet straight and ensure your heel stays connected to the floor. Bend your front leg and fully extend your back leg. Push through your back foot so that you feel a nice stretch down your back leg. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the left side.
As with the calf stretch position yourself away from the wall with your feet shoulder width apart. Place your hands against the wall and step your right foot backwards, not as far back as the previous stretch. Keep your hips square, both feet straight and ensure both heels stay connected to the floor. Bend BOTH knees, checking to see that your kneecaps are positioned directly above each foot. Push through your back foot so that you feel a stretch towards the lower part of your back leg (Achilles tendon). Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the left side.
Lateral Leg Stretch
Lying on your back, fully extend your right leg into the air and keep your left leg straight on the floor. Place your right foot into a strap that does not stretch (ie. a belt or towel) and ensure that the ball of the foot is in contact with the strap. Hold the strap in your left hand then pull your toes back towards you and turn the sole of your foot inwards. You should feel the stretch along the outside of your leg and ankle. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then repeat on the left side (and switch the strap with the right hand).
Anterior Leg Stretch
Kneeling on both knees, place a rolled up towel (or pillow) under your feet. You want the towel to sit directly below the tops of the feet and not under your ankles or shins. Gently sit back onto your heels until you feel a stretch along the front of your feet and ankles, including your shins. Hold for 20-30 seconds. If you suffer from any knee problems it is best to avoid this stretch, however if you do wish to try it do so with caution.
If you experience significant pain beyond discomfort when doing these stretches be sure to stop the activity and schedule an appointment to investigate this further.
Illustrations by Sally Faye Cotterill