Foot Exercises for Healthy Feet

Foot exercises

When I go walking I wear shoes that will dampen the impact of my foot as it hits the ground. While shoes are great for protection and help people feel less pain when they absorb energy their joint would have absorbed, they also prevent our feet from getting the exercise they need.

Feet need to have healthy arches, just like many bridges and buildings have. Arches help take on the large forces of the body and help prevent injury to joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Exercises can help build your arch strength.

One thing I’ve done this last year is used trail runners with a thinner sole, wide toe box, and zero-drop angle so that my feet get a bit more exercise. I mostly just walk or hike in these shoes and I can tell they’ve improved my arch strength.

Below are some exercises that you can do to help get your feet into shape. You can do many of them while sitting down. If you have any injuries or foot problems, consult your doctor or physical THERAPIST before starting any exercise program. 

Pick up the Marbles

When you are sitting on the couch and want to relax, then is your chance to get your feet in shape. Drop some marbles on the ground near your feet. Grab the marble with your toes while curling your toes under your feet. (You can substitute the marbles with other small objects such as nuts and bolts.)

Once you have a marble it over and start making a pile. Repeat the picking up and moving the marbles over to a pile. Once you are done you can switch feet and scatter the marbles and start over. 

If your feet feel fine you can try it again or move on to a new exercise. Remember you are likely using a muscle that hasn’t been used in a while and they may hurt the next day. Take it slow and build your exercise over time.

Pinch the Pennies

While sitting is fine, if you want to make it more challenging you can stand up while doing this foot exercise. Just make sure you have something to hold on to if needed.

Throw some pennies on the ground near your feet. Grab the pennies between your toes. (You can use other coins or narrow objects as well.) You’re building your muscles that squeeze your toes together.

Once you have a penny, move it over and start making a pile. Repeat by pinching the pennies between all of your toes and moving them over to a pile. Once you’ve practiced with all of your toes on one foot, switch feet and scatter the pennies and start over. 

Splay Your Toes

The opposite of squeezing your toes together would be to separate them, such as by opening them wide as if trying to pick up a marble between your toes.

To splay the toes is difficult for me to do. For me, I think it’s going to take plenty of practice. At first, your toes may not cooperate.

One way to try this is much like pinching pennies. First, try to open a space between your toes for the penny to fit, then pinch it, and try to let it go.

Lift Your Toes

Try keeping the ball of your foot on the ground and pointing your toes toward the sky. Try this several times with both feet and see if you can raise one toe at a time. 

Another way to try this for a more complete muscle strengthening session is to curl your toe under, then push your toes into the ground/floor, and then lift the toes up, stretching them up as far as possible.

You may also want to try placing a lightweight object on your toes and lift it up, such as a rug.  

Why Exercise the Toes of Your Feet?

You may be wondering how toe exercises help your arch. These exercises help develop muscle around your toes and foot, making it possible for better gripping and placement of the toes as you roll your foot, from the heel to the toes when walking. 

This strength in your toes helps the foot as a whole with better control, stability, and mechanics as you walk. Your overall impact from walking and running will be displaced better causing a lower impact on your joints. 

Think of your foot as if it were a hand. It can do many things your hand can but it needs a lot of practice for it to develop its abilities and to increase arch support. 

Stretch Your Feet/Massage Your Feet

After you’ve done some exercises with your foot be sure to stretch it out a bit to help with any tightness. You can use your hands to stretch your toes and massage your foot. 

Try a yoga strap or stretch band to pull the ball of your foot back and hold it until you feel a stretch and wait for 5-30 seconds. 

Doing a calf stretch can also be a way to stretch your calf and foot. Another alternative is to get a foot massage, especially if you have sore muscles. 

Massage can help release the muscles and allow the foot bones to align better as you exercise, so your arch is stronger overall.   

Getting a helper to massage might be nice, but you can massage your foot on your own by using a tennis ball and rolling your foot over it.

Heel Raises

Raise your heels as if going onto your tippy toes. To start with, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and stand near a wall or somewhere you can hold onto when you need to.

Make sure your shoes are off and warm up your feet if they are cold. You can go for a walk, do some lite foot exercises, or take a shower.

Next, raise the heels of both feet so that you are on the balls of your feet. Be sure to raise your heels slow and smooth and lower them in the same way. This way you are strengthening your muscles more and helping prevent injury that may come with jerky movements. 

If you are straining to do the exercise, this means it’s time to stop and try again later or another day. 

Walking Barefoot

Whether you’re at the beach, lake, or river take the opportunity to walk without your shoes. Your muscles will get a workout as you walk barefoot.

As you do this, your feet are learning as well. Physical contact with the ground is sending signals to your brain, just like when you use your fingers to touch something. It may take a while, but you are learning to use your feet as they were meant to be used. 

Your biomechanical movements will become more natural without the shoes that were limiting how you were using your feet and controlling their overall movement.

As you walk barefoot and use your muscles, you can gain more control and strength over time. This will then result in a healthier foot and arch, allow you to walk, run, and hike with less chance of injury. 

Your arch will be able to absorb more energy when it is stronger and your foot will be able to have the control needed for better coordination, which leads to a better chance of placing your feet correctly when things become unsteady.  

Walking barefoot is not always practical daily, but we can find ways to do it more often. When at home and around the yard, try walking without shoes or socks.

Be aware of sharp objects where ever you walk, because it will take time to develop callouses that can help prevent injury.

Walk more on the sidewalk without shoes, if taking a walk. You can carry sandals in a backpack and use them when needed. Take care to prevent stubbing your toes or getting a cut.

You may not be in great control of your feet too much, so take it slow at first and be cautious. 

After practicing walking barefoot for a couple of months you’ll begin to see some real differences in the strength, movement, and control you have while walking barefoot. 

See Your Doctor or Physical Therapist

If you have a sports injury or feet problem, you can get advice about your specific issue that will help you strengthen your muscles without causing further injury. 

Sometimes we can’t get the help we need by ourselves, like massaging the muscles in the way a physical therapist can, enabling you to correctly address the issue. 

If you are feeling unsure about going to a doctor, or physical therapist for continued help, it may be possible for you to do a lot of the work on your own. A friend or family member might be able to help when needed. 

Your overall foot and joint health will improve as you continue to strengthen your foot, helping you with pain and preventing further issues. 


If you are interested in making your foot healthier, you can make a big difference for yourself by taking time to exercise and massage your feet.

As your feet get stronger, they can help align your bones better and strengthen your arch so you will have less impact on your joints. Soon you’ll be able to say, “I feel like there’s less pain and more balance when I walk. I have stronger feet now!”

Thanks for visiting

Related Questions

Does walking help my arch?

Walking will help develop your foot muscles and aid in developing your arch. The shoes you wear will decide how much positive or negative impact will occur. The way your foot is placed in your shoe as well as the cushioning will greatly determine the amount of building or weakening of your arch.   

What if my arch hurts?

It’s important to have supportive shoes if you have weak arches. Getting shoes that can support and cushion your foot will aid in pain relief for some. At the same time seeing your doctor and possibly a physical therapist, will help you get the support you need to find out what is wrong and how to work on it.


I enjoy many types of outdoor activities including running, hiking, and walking. I was a former elementary school teacher for 17 years and now enjoy writing and sharing my love of the outdoors.

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