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Experts / November 2021
Shawna Davis, Reebok Contributor

Yes, Your Feet and Ankles Need to Be Stretched, Too

Quads, sure. Calves, always. But feet and ankles? If they aren’t on your list of areas to stretch daily, they should be. Here’s how to do it right

When it comes to stretching your lower body, your hips, hamstrings and quadriceps are typically the center of attention. It makes sense, considering their important role in helping you do the activities you love. But they’re not the only ones providing the power needed to move ahead and step it up (literally), so it’s odd that most people rarely take the time to show their feet and ankles the same love and appreciation. 
When you think about it, your feet and ankles do a lot. They hold you up, bear the weight of your body and give you the mobility to run a marathon or to simply make it through your workday. As a new mom, I’m always trying to find ways to make my days a little easier, including taking a few moments to stretch in the morning, even if it’s just for a few minutes. I slide into my favorite yoga leggings, throw on my most comfortable sports bra and tank top and breathe through a few stretches that target my feet as a way to prepare them for the constant running around I do daily.
Whether you’re a new parent, weekend hiker, casual walker or work on your feet all day, these five yoga poses can help ease foot aches and ankle pain and prevent future injuries.

Cat/Cow Variation

Cat/cow pose (also called Marjaryasana-Bitilasana) is great for strengthening and stretching your spine, and also engaging your feet and ankles. Starting on all fours, slowly round your spine and tuck your chin into your chest. In doing so, let the top of your feet press into your yoga mat, giving the ankles and feet a gentle stretch. When you move into cow pose, arch the spine and look up towards the ceiling as you curl your toes and ground them into your mat. This engages the soles of your feet, providing a nice stretch. To feel the stretch more deeply, lift your knees off the mat and hover them a few inches above the floor.

Hero Pose Variation

Also referred to as Virasana, this pose is a gentle seated asana that provides multiple physical benefits including stretching and strengthening the thighs, knees, ankles and feet arches. To come into hero pose, kneel on the floor (use a block, bolster or blanket wedged between your calves and hamstrings if your knees need extra support). Bring your inner knees together and slightly slide your feet apart. Turn your big toes to touch each other, while gently pressing the top of each foot into your mat. Allow your hands to softly rest on your thighs. You can stop here if you feel the stretch, but if you want to feel it a bit more, slowly lean back, lifting your knees and shins off the mat and placing your weight on the top of your feet; this gives the ankles and feet a more intense stretch.

Downward Facing Dog Cycles

A common staple pose in almost every yoga class, downward facing dog, also referred to as Adho Mukha Svanasana, provides a full-body stretch. You can zero in on strengthening and stretching the top of your feet, ankles and calves with a slight variation: Come into downward dog as you normally would with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your right leg, shifting the weight into your right toes, while rooting the heel of the opposite (left) foot firmly down into your mat. Switch legs; cycle back and forth five to 10 times.

Tree Pose

Tree pose, or Vrksasana, is a grounding pose that strengthens multiple parts of the body, including the ankles and arches. To do this pose, start standing with feet together. Lift your right leg, bend your right knee out to the side, and press your right foot into the inside of your left thigh or shin. When you do this, the left foot experiences the challenge of maintaining your balance by pressing down into the ground. If you want to feel the stretch a bit more, spread your left toes as wide as possible and flex them back towards your body. Switch sides. 

Awkward Pose

Also known as Utkatasana, this pose helps provide circulation to your knees and ankles while strengthening and stretching your ankles and feet (it may also aid in bringing warmth to chronically cold feet). To do this pose, start standing straight up in mountain pose, with your feet hip-width apart. Press your shoulders down and back and lift your arms up toward the ceiling or straight out in front of you. Imagine pressing the four corners of both feet down into your mat. When you’re ready, slowly shift your weight toward the balls off your feet as you squat down and lift your heels off the floor.
As you do this sequence of stretches, aim to stay in each pose for five to 10 breaths. Scale back when you need to or mindfully go a little deeper to make the pose more intense when you’re ready. 

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Experts / November 2021
Shawna Davis, Reebok Contributor