Every uncomfortable step reminds you that finding a solution that provides you true relief from your foot pain can’t come soon enough. Figuring out the cause of your discomfort is the first step, of course; some call for special interventions. But you may be able to alleviate some or all of your aches simply by loosening muscles and reducing inflammation—both contribute to everyday soreness, tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and other concerns.
Consider these options the next time your feet are begging for a little TLC. If your pain persists, consider seeing a podiatrist or orthopedist.
While there are a number of stretches that can help fend off foot aches, there are also some exercises that can release already tense foot muscles:
- If your pain is in your heel… stretch your plantar fascia (the muscle that runs along the sole of your foot, from your toes to your heel).
While sitting, hold the heel of one foot in the palm of your hand. With the other hand, grasp your toes and gently pull them toward you, feeling a stretch in the arch of your foot. Hold for 30 seconds and switch to the other foot.
- If your toes cramp… release tension and build their strength.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands resting on your hips or a chair for balance, if needed. Lift your heels so that you are standing on the balls of your feet and hold for 10 seconds, then lower back down. Repeat 10 times.
- If your pain is in the arch of your foot… stretch the soles of your feet.
Place your hands flat on a wall at shoulder height; stand about two feet away. Position the toes of your right foot on the base of the wall (as if they were walking up it) while keeping your heel on the ground, then lean forward until you feel a stretch in the arch of your foot. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with the other foot.
Just like it does for a stiff neck or sore back, a massage for your feet can soothe soreness by improving circulation and reducing inflammation. You don’t need to see a pro: It’s easy to give yourself effective rub-down. Try these simple exercises to ease your foot discomfort:
- While sitting in a chair, bare feet flat on the floor, spread your toes apart as wide as you can. Scrunch them in, squeezing the top half of your foot. Repeat 10 times. This boosts circulation, allowing a fresh flow of oxygen-rich blood to help relieve pain.
- To ease tension and cramping in your toes, use your thumb to massage the pads of your toes individually, rubbing in a circular motion.
- While sitting, apply pressure with your fingers or the palm of your hand to the arch of your foot, and gradually work your way toward the heel—a good method to help soothe soreness in the arch or heel of your foot.
For a different type of touch therapy, try reflexology. A therapist applies pressure to specific areas on your feet, hands or ears in an effort to relieve energy blockages believed to be causing or contributing to your pain. Working on these pressure points also stimulates your nervous system and promotes the release of feel-good endorphins, helping to relax your body, including the muscles in your feet. Therapists may have different techniques, but thumb pressure and the use of aromatherapy products and instruments (like balls and brushes) are common practice. Ask your reflexologist for tips on how to perform simple techniques yourself at home, too.
There's a reason the soaking portion of a pedicure feels so good: Placing your feet in warm water helps improve circulation and relieve muscle pain. This healing technique is easy to do on your own: Fill a basin with warm water and add a pound of Epsom salts, which contain muscle-soothing magnesium and work as an anti-inflammatory. Soak your feet for 20 to 30 minutes, or until you start to feel the muscles in your feet relax.