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Looking for stretches that are going to help your feet perform and feel better? You’ve come to the right spot. Before we jump in, we've got to cover off the basics of the muscles that move and support the foot.
Extrinsic and Intrinsic Muscles
There are different groups of muscles help with the movement of your feet. First, let’s talk about the extrinsic muscles. Extrinsic muscles originate in the lower leg and have tendons that go down and act on the foot.
There are another group of muscles called the intrinsic muscles, and these muscles originate in the foot itself.
All of these muscles work together in harmony to make sure that the foot has the right amount of support, suppleness, and flexibility, to really maximize that push off to help with foot performance and to prevent injury.
You don't want to just stretch the intrinsic muscles in the foot, you want to stretch the extrinsic muscles that are in the lower and upper leg to make sure that that foot performs optimally, therefore improving performance and reducing injury.
Extrinsic Muscle Stretches
Gastrocnemius Stretch (Straight Knee)
Let's start with the calf complex. To start with, that nice straight knee stretch for the gastroc. Now, you want to hold that for around 15 to 20 seconds, times two to four.
Soleus Stretch (Bent Knee)
Then, let’s focus on the soleus. Bring your foot in a little bit and then bend the knee, so it really works the deeper calf muscle.
Peroneal Muscle Stretch (Outside of Lower Leg)
Now, it's a really good idea to work on some of the muscles that come in on the side of the lower leg into the foot. So first of all, we want to move that foot, in this soleus stretch position, externally rotate it around 45 degrees, and then stretch forward. That is working the peroneal muscles, a group of muscles that are originally on the outside of the lower leg and come down into the foot. So you've got peroneus longus and brevis. So again, holding that stretch for between 15 and 20 seconds, times two to four.
Tibilalis Posterior Stretch (Inside of Lower Leg)
And then for the tibialis posterior, which is the muscles on the inside of the lower leg — they come down on the inside of that medial malleoli into the foot. So turning the foot out to 45 degrees and in that soleus stretch position, stretch. So you're going to really work the inside and outside lower leg muscles, and they come in and help support and help it perform in the way that it should.
Hamstring Muscle Stretch
Then you want to go on to the hamstring. So the hamstring muscle in the back of the leg. So I really like to stretch it with toes up towards me, knee slightly bent, that takes off that neural aspect. And then, just coming forward, just tilting from the hips. So you get that really nice specific muscle stretch in the hamstring, and then hold that for around 15 to 20 seconds.
Quadricep Muscle Stretch — Standing
Then, from the hamstring moving onto the quad. So for the quad, just taking that foot and bringing it up into a nice stretch. And you can then move that foot into that planter flexed position, which really stretches out the tibialis anterior at the front of the shin while you're stretching the quad on the front of the thigh.
Quadricep/Tibialis Anterior Stretch — Kneeling
Another way to stretch that tibialis anterior, the muscle that originates at the front of the shin and crosses the ankle at the front of that ankle joint, is just to get down into this lovely position here. And then you can come down and just rest your glutes on the heel and just lean back a little bit. And that really stretches out that tib ant muscle. It's a really nice way to maximize quad stretch while, again, working on that tibialis anterior.
Instrinsic Muscle Stretches
Now all those previous stretches are for those extrinsic muscles that I was talking about, muscles that originate outside the foot in the lower leg, that then have tendons that go in and work to stabilize support and allow that foot to function efficiently.
Now, this one is more of an intrinsic stretch, plus a few extrinsic muscles get work at the same time. This is called a squat rocker. So you basically come down into a little bit of a squat, and then just rock forward on that foot and then come back again. Now make sure before you do this, that your toes are spread nice and wide and then just come forward and then back onto that foot. So it's a really nice way to stretch out all those muscles within the foot to really make sure that we're getting the extrinsic and intrinsic muscles stretched out.
Stretch all those muscles that work on the foot to allow the foot to perform at its optimal best and reduce that risk of injury.
Now, go log those miles!