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Look! It’s almost barefoot weather! Foot strength is key to helping you enjoy walking barefoot and avoid injuries, so today, I’m going to share a quick exercise that will help strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the foot. It will also help you learn to use your feet more evenly (walking with feet turned out creates rotations and asymmetries in how many of us use our feet and legs). It’s basically a calf raise, but a bit more specific – the calf ‘elevator’.

Let’s start with assessing where you’re at.

Start by standing up on your toes. Notice where you feel your weight. Is it evenly distributed across the ball of your foot, or is it more towards the pinky toe side of the foot? Did your feet stay straight, or did the toes turn out and the ankles roll?

All my weight is on my outside forefoot - can you see how my heel is turning in and my ankle is bending out to the side?

All my weight is on my outside forefoot – can you see how my heel is turning in and my ankle is bending out to the side?

If you rolled out during this test, you likely roll out a bit each time you take a step. Not awesome! So let’s dial it in a bit.

This time you’re going to start by straightening your feet and making sure they’re pelvis-width apart (specifics here if this is new to you).

Holding onto something solid, like a counter, you’re going to rise up onto the balls of your feet again, but this time you’re going to keep the weight evenly distributed across the entire front of the foot. The inside bottom of your foot should not be higher than the outside, and your ankles should bend only in the up-and-down direction instead of veering off to the side (this is called moving in the “sagittal plane“).  In other words, you’re now going to lift straight up and down, exactly like an elevator.

Can you tell how much straighter my ankle is? The telltale sign of the heel coming in is missing. My weight is even across my forefoot, though that's not visually very apparent.

Can you tell how much straighter my ankle is? The telltale sign of the heel coming in is missing. My weight is even across my forefoot, though that’s not visually very apparent.

Make sure your weight stays on the ball of your foot so you’re not jamming your toes into the ground – you should be able to lift and wiggle your toes. Also, try not to thrust your pelvis forward.

I’m not strong enough to raise myself with only my feet, so I push my pelvis forward to fake it. See how the line down from my hip falls forward of my ankle?

This is the part I find the hardest, so I use a counter, or in this case a stool, to help counterbalance myself in this exercise.

Much straighter! I'm also bending forward because the stool is too short - better to use a counter or a door handle so you can stand up straight.

Much straighter! I’m also bending forward because the stool is too short – better to use a counter or a door handle so you can stand up straight.

However, try to use as little help as possible and once you’re stronger, try this without the counter – since you don’t have a counter with you when you walk, you need your calves to be strong enough to do this on their own.

This is all a bit tough to show with photos alone, so I made a video. It co-stars the awesome carpet we bought in Mexico, which is coloured with entirely organic, natural dyes like cochineal and indigo. Enjoy!

I have a tendency to flat feet and foot problems so this is a priority exercise for me. I do it multiple times a day, usually in a slow set of five raises (It’s also a great sneaky office move you can do at your standing desk).

Once I’m able to do it without holding onto my counter, I’ll be able to decrease it and replace the exercise with lots of walking on natural surfaces.

Try this exercise out for the next week or two and see what you notice. Also check into the balls of your feet when you walk – can you distribute your weight evenly between the inside and the outside? All while walking with feet pointing straight ahead, of course!

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