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Every trail runner knows that our feet and ankles work a lot harder on the trail than on the road. When we run over uneven terrain our feet and ankles need to flex, roll and stabilize to keep us from falling or spraining an ankle. Stronger feet will boost your trail performance and decrease your risk of injury.

By including foot and ankle exercises into your strength training regime, you could decrease your risk of ankle sprains and overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis and achilles tendinopathy. Better foot and ankle strength will also improve your coordination, allowing you to fly over technical trails.

I put together a 5-exercise regime to help you build injury-proof ankles and feet.

1. Toe Yoga

  • Stand on a firm surface with your feet flat.
  • Lift the big toe, while keeping the other toes on the floor.
  • Then lift the other 4 toes while pushing down into the floor with the big toe.
  • Perform 3 sets of 10.

2. Towel Crunches

  • Sit with your feet on a towel that is spread out on a smooth surface.
  • Scrunch the towel with your toes, keeping your heels down.
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 with each foot.
  • Make the exercise harder by placing a weight on the edge of the towel.

3. Eccentric Heel Drop

  • Stand on the edge of a step. Hold onto a bar or wall for balance.
  • Push up onto your toes with both feet.
  • Transfer you weight onto one leg; now slowly lower your heel over the edge of the step.
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 with each leg.
  • Progress the exercise by adding load, for example a weighted backpack.

4. Theraband Inversions and Eversions

  • Sit on a chair; place a resistance band around your forefoot.
  • Inversions: Rotate your foot in against the theraband, feeling the muscles on the inside of your ankle and lower leg working.
  • Eversions: Rotate your foot out, feeling the muscles on the outside of your ankle and lower leg working.
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 with each foot.

5. Single Leg Balance

  • Balance barefoot on a balance mat, bosu ball or pillow.
  • Make the exercise harder by hopping on, finding your centre of balance before hopping off again.

Make sure to take care of your feet so they can withstand the loads imposed by hours on the trails.

Bonus tip: for stronger and healthier feet also walk barefoot as much as possible!

Happy Running 


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