Skiers Happy Feet: 5 exercises to keep your feet active and strong during the ski season!
We are well into this year’s ski season! Many of us wait excitedly for November to April in anticipation of getting out on the slopes. But, after a long day of skiing or snowboarding, your feet and calves may feel the burn.
Exercises targeting below the knee are often neglected when warming up and cooling down from activity, especially the feet. Our ankle and foot muscles are much smaller than our legs, BUT the job they do is important for carving, jumping and doing our best pizza (snow plowing).
Below are a few simple exercises with no equipment you can do at home to help strengthen your ankles and feet.
I would be remiss not to mention the tight-fitting and rigid boots required for skiing! Getting your boots properly fitted is essential, and have your boots checked at a ski/snowboard store.
If your boots still aren’t quite right, here are a few tips to increase comfort:
- Add a supportive or cushioned insole.
- Invest in ski socks. These are thin yet warm and padded at the shin and toes to protect you from boot pressure points.
- Ask your ski/snowboard store about punching out your boots. A good boot tech can help with hot spots where the shell of the boot rubs against your foot. This is accomplished by heating up the boot’s plastic and stretching it out in that area. This is especially helpful for individuals with a Tailor’s bunion (6th toe), wide forefoot, ankle pressure, navicular pressure, and heel spurs.
Big toe only – Stand with your feet flat on the floor. Lift only your big toe, then slowly lower. Try to keep your other toes relaxed.
Tip: If you notice your big toe drifting towards your other toes, loop an elastic band around both your big toes to keep them pointing straight. This is especially helpful for individuals with Hallux Valgus (like me!)
Everything but the big toe – Stand flat on the floor. Lift all of your toes up except the big toe, then lower.
Stand with your feet flat on the floor. Lift the arch of your foot up towards the ceiling, keeping your toes touching the floor, then lower.
Tip: Your longitudinal arch runs from your heel to your toes along the foot’s inner border. Picture a string at the top of the arch. Pull the string up towards the ceiling to lift the arch higher.
Standing with your feet flat on the floor. Alternate between rising up on the balls of your feet (plantar flexion) and pulling up the front of your foot (dorsiflexion).
Tip: To make this exercise more functional, stand in a squat stance with bent knees, similar to your posture when skiing or snowboarding.
Straight Knee Version
Bent Knee Version
Stand in tandem (i.e. one foot forward, one foot back). Bend the front knee and keep your back leg straight. You should feel a stretch in your calf at the back of the straight leg.
Tip: Bend both knees to stretch your deeper calf muscles.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the slopes! Consult your physiotherapist if you experience pain or want to work on conditioning for the ski and snowboard season.
Written by: Allison Evers