Without regular mobilisation, our feet become stiff and not only can we end up with that tell-tale shuffle, but by feeling unstable on our feet, it can increase fear or anxiety about going out and about. After all, they do bear the weight of the whole of our body when we are standing and walking so it's only fair that we give them the attention they duly deserve. Just observe octogenarian Bruce Forsyth who still manages to walk tall and look as if he glides, which he swears is down to daily exercises, paying particular attention to his feet.
Each foot consist of 26 bones (making up 25% of all bones in our body), 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles and tendons. It's also a very nerve-rich part of the body and the reason for this is that when you are walking or running, it enables your brain to send messages to your feet to make subtle adjustments to your gait so that you are able to move safely.
Not only that, your feet and ankles have many energetic pathways and points, which connect to your internal organs, muscles and fascia so by exercising your feet, you are also benefiting the whole of you, including your brain! By doing just 5 minutes of foot exercises a day, you will soon see and feel the benefits, and they are a great antidote if you are feeling a bit tired and sluggish as you will instantly feel brighter (I do them when I'm sitting at the computer). Like a mini-reflexology or shiatsu session. I usually incorporate some focussed work on the feet during a treatment as I know just how valuable it is and can actually be as much benefit to work the related area on the feet as it is to work locally (if someone's got particularly tight shoulders, for example).
As mentioned, you don't have to spend a long time doing these exercises and it's always a good idea to incorporate them into an existing regime but the beauty is that you don't necessarily have to set aside a particular time; you can do them when watching the telly, sitting having a cup of tea, when travelling (as long as you're not responsible for the vehicle) or even under your desk at work and no-one need know! If you want a bit of help, you can invest in an inexpensive wooden foot massager and roll your feet over it which stimulates reflexology and shiatsu points. Very calming and soothing ....
Make sure you are sitting comfortably in a chair that allows your feet to touch the floor. Don't rush the exercises and really feel into each movement, it's far better to do fewer repetitions with more focus than doing them too quickly. With each movement, see how far you can stretch without straining and focus on your breathing whilst you are doing them, which will benefit you further.
point and flex: Any of you who have done any ballet will know this one. First of all, take a nice deep breath in and on the out-breath, point the whole of your foot for the duration of the breath. As you breathe back in, gradually flex your foot. Do up to five repetitions for each foot (or with both feet together if that's comfortable).
windscreen wipers: Flex your feet ahead of you with your heels resting on the floor, then wave them from side to side with both feet going in the same direction.
rocky boat: Place both feet on the ground then tip the balance to the left so that the right sides of both feet come off the ground, then move to the other side so that the left sides of both feet come off the ground. Do 5 repetitions.
ankle rotations: Raise one foot off the ground and rotate your foot from the ankles first clockwise for five rotations then anti-clockwise for five rotations. Repeat with the other foot.
scrunch and flex your toes: Speaks for itself, really. Five for each foot.
on-the-Spot walking: one of my favourites as it really works the toes and ball of the foot. Starting with both feet on the floor, raise one foot so that you are effectively 'standing' on the ball of that foot. Hold the stretch for one in and out breath, then lower that foot to the floor and then raise the other foot. Do this 5 times for each foot.
inchworm: With both feet placed on the floor, scrunch the toes of both feet simultaneously so that the rest of the foot is dragged forward along the floor. You might like to try it in reverse, so the foot goes backwards, which is a little harder.
pick up a scarf: Place a scarf, hanky, tea-towel or whatever similar is to hand, on the floor and try and pick it up with the toes of one foot. Not that easy! Make sure both feet have a go. Fun to do with friends.