Pilates Style magazine
July/August 2006, p. 55
Build a better body from the ground up
by nurturing — not neglecting — your feet
by Becky Mollenkamp
Exercising the feet helps activate the intrinsic muscles that can become weak and damaged from walking around in ill-fitting shoes. These exercises, from Jillian Hessel, author of Pilates Basics, were passed down to her from her mentor, Carola Trier, a first-generation instructor who made students start with foot exercises before every Pilates session.
This exercise massages the bottom of the foot and also strengthens the transverses arch, or the "knuckles," of the foot. Try the sequence on one foot, then walk around and notice the difference in how each foot feels, before working the other one.
- Stand or sit on the edge of a chair with good posture, and place a small rubber ball under your heel. Roll the ball around under your foot with gentle pressure to massage and stimulate the sole.
- Position the ball so it's centered under the ball of your big toe. Push down with the big toe and lengthen it as you grip the ball. Repeat 3 times. Perform the same motion with each toe, positioning the ball under each "knuckle" joint. Ask someone to help you with positioning so you can keep your posture erect.
- Massage the foot again by rolling it around your foot, then try to pick up the ball with your toes by wrapping them around the ball. Repeat the sequence on the other foot.
Stand with good posture, feet hip-width apart. Spread your toes and grip the floor with the pads of your toes, pulling up to drag your heel forward. Try to walk across the room like this.
Place a pencil on the floor in front of you at the same angle as the toes on your right foot, with the point on the pinky-toe side. Stand or sit on the edge of a chair with good posture and put your weight into your heel. Fan the toes out and wrap them around the pencil. If you can pick up the pencil, try to write your name with it on a piece of paper.
This exercise works best on a smooth surface. Lay a towel on the floor and stand or sit on the edge of a chair with good posture and the heel pressed into the towel. Spread the toes like a fan, then grip the towel and pull it toward you. Repeat 5 times, then work the other foot.