Your poor feet, stuck in shoes that condense them, compress them, suppress them. As they are shoved into confined spaces so often (and let’s be honest, none of us frolic in a meadow barefoot), the less the intrinsic muscles of our feet are able to do their jobs. This leads to poor reaction to ground forces when we walk, jog, run, jump and more. The big toe can develop issues with flexion in either direction, the arch can lose its ability to flex and stabilize and the heel can lose its ability to rock. Bad things happen up the chain when these things occur such as glute inactivation. But luckily for your feet, the start of the solution is the upstairs neighbors: the hands.
Enter the Hand Foot Glove. Sometimes called foot love or intrinsic foot activation but no matter the name, it does its job. Let’s break down step by step how to use your hand to open up and activate your foot.
Starting seated, put your right ankle up on your left leg. Place the fingers of your left hand between each of your toe gaps, forcing the finger deep enough to cause a significant stretching sensation. Anchor your palm on the ball of your foot.
Plantar and dorsiflexion
Pull your foot away from your shin in the same direction as a calf raise. Now push the foot toward your shin like a toe raise. Repeat 10 times.
Now, twist the bottom of your foot towards your face. Then twist it away and toward the floor. This provides better rotation in the midfoot. The cue I use with people is to twist the bottom of their foot toward their face, go “Eww, that’s disgusting!” and twist it away. It really helps people remember. Perform 10 of these.
Pinch your fingers with your toes. This will entail trying to squeeze into the spaces your fingers are now occupying. This is often uncomfortable so just talk through it. Perform for 10 seconds.
Compression and distraction
Take your free hand and hold tight to your heel. Now you are going to smash your foot together longitudinally as if you are trying to make it one shoe size smaller. This is the compression. To perform distraction, do the exact opposite, trying to drag the ball and heel of the foot apart. It is key to remember that distraction is the main goal. So compress quickly then hold the distraction for at least three times as long. Feel free to perform some twisting action with the hand holding the ball of the foot. Perform 5 to 10 rounds of compression and distraction.
Compare and contract
Remove your hands and place your foot back on the ground next to the other. Notice how they feel different and how you can spread out the toes of the foot you just worked far better. You can even try lifting your big toe independently of the others and vice-versa. If this was an issue before, it is likely fixed now.
Now do it all over again on your other foot and you are good to go! Try this foot reset as often as you need it, particularly before lower body dominant workouts. I’ve even had someone I’ve worked with recently have less hip and back pain during her shoulder workout after performing this reset beforehand.
Stay tuned for an article on how to utilize follow-up exercises to amplify the positive effects of this drill!