Running, cycling, squatting, jumping, curling, crunches, and lunging — you do it all, right? Well, the one move you aren’t doing is probably the one that can keep you doing all those things (and more), pain and injury-free for a lifetime.
What is it?
Dorsiflexion. In layperson’s terms, dorsiflexion is the action of the foot that occurs when you pull your toes back toward your shin, engaging the foot and ankle muscles (the tibialis anterior, extensor hallucis longus, and extensor digitorum longus).
Weak muscles in this part of the leg can cause everything from muscular imbalances to an impaired gait and even tripping and falling (as we age, we lose even more strength in this area, which makes it harder to step properly), says Dr. Yoav Suprun, PT, Dip. MDT, a certified personal trainer, physical therapist, and owner of SOBE Spine in Miami Beach, FL.
Think about your typical day: you go for a morning run (your calf muscles firing with every push off), wear high heels to work all day (tightening your calves, forcing your foot into plantar flexion), then you head to the gym for some calf raises and pointed toes (even more plantar flexion) in Pilates class. And sure, sometimes you stretch out your calves, but probably not enough to combat the amount of use they get all day long!
To keep your body in balance, try either of these simple moves every day (if possible), or at the very least, before and after you finish a workout:
Stand with your feet together. Lift the right ball of your foot and toes off the floor, keeping just your heel down. Hold for two counts, then lower and repeat with the left. Alternate sides for up to a minute. Rest and repeat for two to three sets total.
Or you can walk on your heels (in sneakers, of course) for as long a stretch as you can for up to a minute. Rest and repeat for two to three sets total.
You’ll see both the toe taps and heel walking exercises in our upcoming DVD, “Walk On: 5 Fat Burning Miles!” (Add it to your wish list now on Amazon so you don’t miss it once it’s released).