Planks are an effective and easy way to develop core strength, but for some people, they're taxing on the toes. Sometimes, that's due to poor mobility of the joints; other times, it's improper form or a pre-existing injury, according to Pilates instructor, Grace Albin.
If your toes hurt while planking, we've rounded up some tips from fitness experts on how to keep them pain-free.
1. Check Your Form
First things first: Make sure you're not hyperextending your toes, Albin says. "Your toes should not be overly bent, curled or arched during your plank," she says.
She recommends the following to check your form: "From a plank position, consciously think about your feet and shift your ankles and body weight forward and backward. Go very slowly while the toes move from a more flexed position to a less flexed position. Somewhere in between should be the best place for your shape and your flexibility."
If that doesn't work, alternate between planking on your knees and toes until your toes are stronger, says Hilde Kromhout, physiotherapist and owner of Bodytec in Pretoria, South Africa.
2. Make Use of Props
Another idea: Place your shins into the loops of a TRX suspension to take the weight off your toes completely, Kromhout says. Or, place a couch cushion or a step or box with a folded towel for cushioning under your shins.
Whatever you choose, just make sure it's the right height so that you can still hold a straight line from head to hips to heels.
3. Wear Comfortable Shoes
If you aren't already doing so already, wearing cushioned athletic shoes and some thicker socks while you plank can add a buffer between your toes and the ground, Albin says.
"Wearing sneakers might protect your toes and does not reduce any of the core-strengthening and shoulder-strengthening benefits for your body," she says.
4. Try a Swiss Ball
A common go-to solution for this problem is using a foam roller under your shins. "But over time, the foam roller is going to start hurting the person's legs, because it can't be compressed that much," says Ignis Labuschagne, personal trainer at Bodytec. But a Swiss ball is more effective.
"The ball is much softer and will require the person to use more core activation to do the plank correctly," Labuschagne says. Make sure the tops of your feet rest against the ball, not your toes, since flexing your feet — even on a Swiss ball — can put excess pressure on already sensitive toes.
5. Plank With Your Feet Against a Wall
Placing your feet against a wall also helps take the pressure off your toes, says fitness instructor Aidan Fischer from Bodytec. Wearing shoes while you do so can also help make things easier as this will prevent your feet from slipping.
6. Check for Any Pre-Existing Issues
If nothing seems to alleviate your toe pain or the pain continues after your workout is over, talk with your doctor or a physical therapist, Albin says. You'll want to rule out any problems such as an injury to your toe or arthritis, which may be contributing to or causing your toe pain.