Attaching to the toes on the bottom of the foot, the toe flexors pull the toes downward when they contract. The numerous toe flexors include the flexor hallucis longus, flexor hallucis brevis, flexor digitorum longus and flexor digitorum brevis. These muscles help with balance, especially when you rise on your toes. Strengthening these muscles can help prevent plantar fasciitis and shin splints.
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Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your knees slightly and flex your ankles so that your toes come off the floor. Keeping your heels on the ground, contract the muscles in your feet. Hold the contraction for 15 seconds. Release the muscles and repeat.
Sit in a chair and place your bare feet on the floor in front of your. Press the toes of your right foot down into the floor, keeping your toes straight and your heel on the floor. As you press down with your toes, feel a sense of lift in the arch of your foot and allow your metatarsals to lift slightly. Avoid letting your toes slide back toward your heel. Relax your foot and repeat for a total of 10 times. Then perform this exercise with your left foot. Work up to three sets of 10 repetitions on each foot.
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Loop a resistance band around the ball of your right foot. Grasp one end of the band with your right hand and the other with your left hand. Point your ankle against the resistance of the band. Then, without changing the pointed position of your ankle, relax your toes so they point up toward the ceiling. Point and flex your toes, keeping your ankle stationary, for a total of 10 repetitions. Repeat with the left foot. As you perform this exercise, keep your toes straight. Do not curl your toes or grip the band with your toes.
After performing strengthening exercises for the toe flexors, stretch them out. For a seated stretch, cross your right foot over your left thigh. Grasp the toes of your right foot and gently pull them backwards until you feel a stretch under your foot. For a standing stretch, stand facing a wall at a distance of 1 or 2 feet. Keeping the ball of your right foot slightly off the floor, slide your right toes up the wall. With your heel still in contact with the floor, lean forward and allow your metatarsals to drop towards the floor. You should feel a stretch on the bottom of your foot.